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Florida Panthers Surprisingly Lose Late Lead as Mighty Blue Jackets Charge Back, Win 3-2 in OT


The Panthers grabbed a two goal lead in the opening period against Columbus on Wednesday night. Anyone following this team lately knows that wasn't a good omen.

Yes, Florida gave up yet another late goal Wednesday as the visiting Blue Jackets battled back from a two goal deficit just as four other opponents have in recent weeks.

And once more, the Panthers watched a valuable point in the standings float away. The Blue Jackets, who had lost seven of their past eight, got a goal from Antoine Vermette with 52.7 seconds remaining then won in the final minute of overtime as R.J. Umberger scored on a power play to lift the Blue Jackets to a 3-2 win in Sunrise.

“I don't even know what to say. This is inexcusable,'' defenseman Bryan Allen said. “I don't even know if it's a let down. We're just letting teams hang around. If we get that third goal, it's a different game. We need to find a way to hold on to leads whether its 2-0 or 3-0. We need to pull these games out.''

The Panthers have won three of the first five games on this six-game homestand that concludes Friday against the rival Lightning.

Thanks to late meltdowns against Columbus and Atlanta, Florida has picked up eight of what should have been 10 points during this run of home dates. Atlanta trailed 2-0 before scoring in the final two minutes, winning 3-2 in a shootout.

“We need to bear down and get these points. We've let these games slip,'' Darcy Hordichuk said. “These are games that come back to haunt you at the end of a season.''

Atlanta isn't the only team that's been finding a way to come back on the Panthers. Coming into Wednesday, Florida held a two-goal lead in six of its previous 10 games. In those six games, they gave up that lead five times – and won just two of those games.

Columbus made sure the Panthers didn't make that three.

The Panthers took the initial lead when David Booth followed up a hard shot from Mike Santorelli – who now has a point in 11 of his past 12 games -- and beat Steve Mason on the rebound less 2:43 into the game.

Cory Stillman gave Florida its cursed two-goal lead less than six minutes later, head-butting the puck past Mason at 8:21. Stillman, crashing the net looking for a dirty goal, got his chance when Radek Dvorak's slap shot bounced off Mason and hit Stillman's helmet.

The Panthers had plenty of other chances to beat Mason and the tired Blue Jackets (who lost in a shootout in Tampa on Tuesday night) but never fully took advantage.

“I liked our start, we were ready to play,'' coach Pete DeBoer said. “But it's been a repeat of a lot of nights. We get the lead, have some opportunities to extend it when the other team pushes back and we don't. We let them stick around and you see what happens. We lose our composure in the final minutes and I need to find a way to instill some confidence in the right guys out there.''

Columbus, which was almost completely outplayed through the first period, cut its deficit in half late in the opening period. Florida failed to get a stick on a Steve Bernier clear attempt, one that found its way to Fedor Tyutin retreating the zone on the left side. Instead, the puck found his stick and Tyutin pulled back and fired, the 50-foot shot finding its way through traffic and past Vokoun for the Blue Jackets' lone goal of the night.

Florida didn't do much in the second period but watch the Jackets get scoring opportunities despite  having three power plays chances during the session. It appeared as if Columbus joined the likes of Atlanta, Montreal, Carolina (twice) and Washington to come back from multi-goal deficits on Florida when Derick Brassard fired off a puck during a horrible Florida clearing shift.

Video review showed Brassard's shot banged off the crossbar of the goal cage. Bad for Columbus, lucky for the Panthers. The Panthers weren't so lucky late in the third when Michael Frolik fired off a long power play shot that Stephen Weiss deflected past Mason. Neither Evgeny Dadonov nor Booth could get to the slippery puck despite it being so close to the open cage.

With just over a minute left, the Jackets pulled Mason and Columbus came hard at the Panthers, Vermette joining the scramble in front and knocking a loose puck past Vokoun. It never should have been that close.

“I don't know what it is,'' Vokoun said. “I've been here a long time and this isn't a [new] event. It's happened a few times. I don't what to tell you. If I knew what it was, I would figure it out for everyone here. It's costing us points and it's not good.''

One reason the Panthers lost to Atlanta on Monday night was giving up two goals in the final two minutes of the game. Another was lost opportunities. At least four players missed open nets, with Bernier misfiring on a shot with a wide-open net in the third; Allen missed an empty net just before Bryan Little scored Atlanta's first goal of the night.

The Panthers followed that same trend on Wednesday.

“You've got to bury a team,'' DeBoer said. “You've got to stick a fork in them, and we don't. That's been our problem all year. We don't have the killer instinct. That leads to the late game collapses. We're not giving up breakaways. The goals we give up are scrambles and results of not finishing off the other team when we get the chance.''


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Pls...fire him now....

Deboer said "....we don't have the killer instinct....", well, that starts with the head coach! Deboer is no longer able to properly motivate this team! He and Houlton need to be relieved of their duties immediately.
Frolik - let's trade him for a pick, any pick!

What's with double shifting Booth. Keep playing Horti and maybe Booth won't have tired legs. The past few games when PD sits Horti the team starts to play sloppy.

With no offensive skill to put teams away and small defenceman(weaver) this is the expected outcome.We really scored one legit goal and missed 3 sure shots tonite and 5 open nets against Atlanta.BeBoer to conservative with lead last 2 minutes.

Frustrating to see them give away two wins.

Regardless of ownership changes, GM changes, coaching changes, and personnel moves over thje past decade, we are still watching the exact same team. You can change the names on the jerseys from six years ago and the attitude, performance, and outcome would be the same.This organization is cursed. They will not make the playoffs for ANOTHER 10 years.

the curse started with the monk promotion

Vokoun says this has happened a few times, no it has happened a lot of times.

The difference between this team and the other teams that blew leads is that the effort is there.

cursed no, this team has been an after thought of Cohen/Yormark, they care about running the arena and not putting on a NHL team.

This team has to play a perfect game for 60 minutes to win because we don't have top end talent.

the real blue print is to make it look like they are trying to improve than Cohen/Yormark pull the rug out and cut the budget back to where we don't scout the right players.

Not only have we blown the 1st round of drafts we are one of the few organizations that has nothing to show ever for a late round pick.

Draft the wrong player (do you thing Eric Staal would put up and accept the losing like lazy Nate Horton did?), sign the wrong free agents, make bad trades, lose players for nothing.

10 years so far and counting, we lack skill and character, we don't hit, we don't go to the spots that allow for goal scoring.

Two games in a row you saw teams that don't want to lose do what it takes to win, they sworm the net. When was the last time the panthers swormed the net down a goal or two late in the game?

We need to get skill, get bigger and bring people that will not accept losing.

Tallon clean house now this is 10 years of the same old panthers

Trade Frolik for a draft choice, Disgusted with panthers effort. Trade your second leading scorer for a draft choice. That's about as smart as the last 10 1st round draft choices, no worse. Not very smart.

This team has 8 out of its last 10 points. I dont think there is a reason to be so down on this team yet....I agree about Weaver, he got pushed around everywhere on the ice last night. He is replaceable and tradeable.

The killer instinct motivation is missing from this team. They have to believe that they can finish and win games. that is hard for any coach to explain, please watch Boudreau on HBO to see the CAPS epic 9 game collapse. I would say for the Panthers to bring in some old vets to talk to the team. They are very close to snapping out of the old mentality that existed last year.

What sticks out in my mind is the last play of the game. Oslez hitting...while the rest of the Panthers are frozen in place, which is how the Jackets scored. Oslez is developing into a good player that he is challenging the opponent....The rest were still sleep walking.

Why would anyone spend their hard earned money to watch this team?

A little speculation. Buffalo will have new owners soon. Ruff is on the hot seat. Perhaps Ruff returns to S. Fla. Interesting ?

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