FLYERS 4, PANTHERS 2
With Steve Bernier missing Wednesday's game because of illness, the Panthers were forced to take on the Eastern Conference's best team down a player.
Despite that, the Panthers made a strong third-period comeback but couldn't overcome a three goal deficit as the Flyers won at BankAtlantic Center for the first time in two years by holding on for a 4-2 win.
Florida got nice goals from Rostislav Olesz (early in the third) and David Booth (midway through) but just didn't have enough to beat a Philadelphia team that has won 15 of 19 since Jan. 2. The two goals in the third made what happened in the second so much more painful as an apparent goal from Marty Reasoner wasn't allowed.
Reasoner appeared to jam the puck through Bobrovsky and defenseman Andreas Nodl – who came into the crease as a measure of last defense. Play was stopped with 2:09 left in the period and Hockey Central in Toronto reviewed the play for a few minutes.
It was ruled the puck didn't go all the way across the line because the review was inconclusive.
“Another call against us,'' Chris Higgins said.
Nodl appeared to kick the puck out of the corner of the net – similar to Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec shoveling the puck out from under the cage on a Bryan McCabe goal that wasn't on Jan. 5. The NHL did not review that goal and it cost the Panthers. As did this.
“I'm at a loss,'' an angry Pete DeBoer said. “You show 100 people that play and 100 people will say it's a goal yet Toronto says it isn't. What are you going to do?"
Said Mike Santorelli: “It looked good to me. I thought it was a goal. Definitely. It crossed and [Nodl] slipped it out with his foot.''
Although the Panthers don't have a winning record and will likely miss the playoffs for an NHL record 10th straight season, the team rarely gets blown out and has shown plenty of moxie.
If not for an empty net goal with 21.7 seconds left, the Panthers likely would have lost by a single goal for a ninth straight game. Coming into Wednesday, the Panthers had lost 17 of 19 by one goal.
The Flyers, booed off the ice in Philly after a lopsided 5-0 loss to the Panthers in December, looked more like their usual selves on Wednesday. Philadelphia, the defending Eastern Conference champs, came hard at the Panthers as expected. Even though the Flyers won a hard-fought game at Tampa Bay the night before, they weren't looking ahead and obviously took the Panthers very seriously.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun was forced to make seven stops early on, those saves putting him 18th on the NHL's all-time list. But the Flyers scored goals on each of their next two shots, putting the Panthers in a very precarious position as the Flyers don't surrender too many leads.
Florida, outshot 18-5 in the opening period, recovered and played a strong second and third period, putting pressure on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky early in the second yet the Flyers still held a 3-0 lead at the time of Reasoner's disputed shot.
The Panthers finally got one past Bobrovsky early in the third period when Olesz backhanded a loose puck off a Jason Garrison shot on Florida's third power play chance of the night. Later on, Booth picked off a loose puck and walked in on Bobrovsky, fired high and watched the puck glance off the goalies shoulder and singe the back of the net.
Booth's goal should have tied the score. Instead, the Panthers lost another close one.
“We started off slow and it killed us,'' Higgins said. “We didn't show up with our sharpest game in the first and it cost us. Philadelphia capitalizes on fast starts and if you are on your heels, they'll make you look stupid.''
LATEST MR. 1,000
The Panthers are considered a pretty young team by NHL standards, yet Cory Stillman became the third current member of the team to play in 1,000 NHL games joining Bryan McCabe and Radek Dvorak. The Panthers have almost 10 percent of the 32 active players to have hit that plateau on their roster.
“We're either young or old, there's not much in between,'' coach Pete DeBoer joked. “Those three guys, the ones with 1,000 games, are great role models for the kids we have coming up here. The main reason for me is their love of the game. They show up, at their age after the abuse their bodies have take over the years, and have energy and enthusiasm. Most days, they're the first ones in here.''
The Panthers announced Stillman's achievement soon after the game started, but don't plan on having the official on-ice ceremony for him Friday because his family is at a junior tournament in Quebec. The team plans on honoring Stillman at their following home game on Feb. 27 -- if Stillman is still around, that is.
Stillman, 37, is expected to be traded by the Panthers prior to or at to the Feb. 28 deadline.
-- A number of Marlins players – including Mike Stanton, Burke Badenhop, Chris Volstad, Clay Hensley and Brian Sanches -- attended Wednesday's game and were presented with Panthers jerseys.
The Marlins officially open spring training Friday at their complex in Jupiter.