SENATORS 2, PANTHERS 1
Just before the end of the second intermission, Panthers public address announcer Bill Murphy promised fans “an exciting third period.''
No, he didn't laugh while making such a bold proclamation.
The Panthers and Senators played about as uninspiring a game as their records suggested they might. The two cellar-dwellers, who are competing for draft standing and not playoff position, went through the motions for much of the night, the night of pond hockey finally ended when Erik Karlsson scored twice within the final nine minutes to give Ottawa a 2-1 win.
“It was a bad hockey game both ways,'' coach Pete DeBoer said afterward. “The goalies were the bright spots on the ice for both teams. We looked like we could play for weeks and not score at some points. It was our sixth game in nine nights. I'm not making excuses, but I thought our tanks were a bit empty.''
With the Heat playing host to the Lakers a few miles south in downtown Miami, there wasn't much hype for Thursday's game against the league's 29th ranked team (Ottawa) and its 26th. The Panthers announced a crowd of 12,310 at BankAtlantic Center although that number was definitely inflated. The biggest cheer of the night came with 6:13 left when Murphy announced that the Heat had ended its five game slide by beating the Lakers.
Well, the home fans needed something to cheer about. Both teams gave up on their playoff dreams long ago. While their coaches and players won't admit it, both teams would love to secure a top three pick in the June draft.
Based on Thursday's game, both teams could use the infusion of talent such a high pick would bring.
Neither team did much of anything through the first two periods, although – as Murphy sagely predicted – play did pick up in the third.
Former Panthers goalie Craig Anderson – whom Colorado gave up on and gave away to Ottawa last month – continues to impress in his new environs. Anderson picked up his first win in Sunrise since leaving Florida as a free agent in 2009 by stopping 34 shots.
Anderson, who has won six of nine starts with the Senators and will likely start Friday in Tampa, was put to the test in the third when Francis Lessard was ejected for ramming Scott Timmins. Lessard, who declined to fight Darcy Hordichuk after the hard hit, put the Senators on the spot as Florida went on a five minute power play. Timmins left the game with a possible concussion. He will be evaluated further on Friday.
The Panthers took their best shots of the night against Anderson during the extended power play but failed to get anything through. Anderson snuffed out Florida's biggest chance with three seconds remaining in the power play, pouncing on a loose puck in front of the net.
“We had some chances, but the power play was the turning point,'' DeBoer said. “We had chances to cash in and didn't do it.''
The Panthers fell behind when Karlsson scored twice late in the third period, the first coming off a soft shot that trickled past Tomas Vokoun and the second a slap shot from the right side.
The Panthers finally got on the board with 4:13 left as defenseman Clay Wilson scored for the second straight night. Wilson came into Tuesday's game with just one NHL goal; now he has three.
“It would have been better with a better outcome,'' Wilson said. “I'm getting some bounces right now and they're finding the net.''
Panthers center Shawn Matthias is shaving off his thick blond locks on Friday – and it's all for a good cause. Matthias will be shaving his head at a Boynton Beach pub to help support the St. Baldrick's Foundation and its work with children's cancer charities.
Unlike others who have undergone the clippers for St. Baldrick's, Matthias says he isn't going with the 'chrome dome' look. Instead, he's just cutting his hair as short as it can. His mother, he joked, isn't too thrilled with the new look but happy for the cause.
“I like the long hair, but it's just hair. It'll grow back. I'm just happy to help out,'' Matthias said. “This is fun and we're giving back at the same time. It's funny to be shaving my head but I wouldn't do it if it wasn't a good cause.''
-- DeBoer has joked that his frustrations with the Panthers this year has taken a toll on his hairline as well, at one point pulling off his baseball cap and showing his receding locks.
DeBoer, who has one year left on his contract, says he doesn't think it's going to take general manager Dale Tallon all that long to get the franchise back on track. The Panthers are about to set the NHL record for postseason futility, missing the playoffs for a 10th straight season.
“I wasn’t here for seven of them,'' DeBoer said, “but it's tough, there's no doubt about that. .-.-. I don’t think it’s a five-year turnaround with the plan Dale has. He has made it clear he’s going to try to turn this around as quickly as possible, bringing in fresh faces. There's money to be spent. This isn’t something that’s going to go on another 10 years.”
Craig Anderson Stops Panthers in Snoozer ... Scott Timmins Hit Hard
SENATORS 2, PANTHERS 1