Had the Panthers lost another shootout Friday night, do you really think Kris Versteeg would have attempted his shot juggling the puck on his stick before whipping it lacrosse style? Or would Erik Gudbranson try to knock the puck through by using his head as if he were David Beckham?
Yes, a day after beating Calgary 3-2 in a four-round shootout, the Panthers were much more relaxed mood.
Although Stephen Weiss said the Panthers never lost their confidence in the shootout despite mounting losses, coach Kevin Dineen admitted he was worried Florida's lack of success was going to start festering.
After all, the Panthers came into Friday's shootout just 1-4 with one goal on 16 shots.
Against Calgary, Florida fell behind 1-0 and was down to its last shot when defenseman Dmitry Kulikov came on for his first shootout attempt in his three seasons with the team. Kulikov kept things going by beating rookie goalie Leland Irving glove side.
After Jose Theodore stopped T.J. Brodie, Weiss scored Florida's second goal as rats came down prematurely. Theodore then stopped Lee Stempniak and the celebration was on.
“It's good and bad shooting third. You may not get the chance, and if you do, the game could be decided by the shot,'' Kulikov said. “When I got out there I wasn't even thinking about the game. It was just a practice shootout. I just wanted to get out there and score.''
Theodore said he wished he hadn't given up the initial shootout goal, but liked the pressure of having to hold down the fort once Kulikov tied it up.
Theodore has been good in shootouts throughout his career and is tied for 14th with 19 wins. Of goalies with more than 10 shootouts, Theodore's 70 percent success rate on shots is 12th best among active players.
“We won the first one against Tampa and that's been it for us,'' said Theodore, who has both of Florida's shootout wins this season. “When the game is on the line and you know you get the win with one save, that's pressure. It was on.''
LIQUOR SALES SLOWED
The Florida Department of Transportation is sponsoring Sunday's game against Carolina. With that sponsorship comes a rarity in professional sports: Limited alcohol sales at BankAtlantic Center. The
Panthers will not sell alcohol at any concession stands in the upper or lower levels and are closing the two bars in the 100 level.
Fans will still be able to drink in suites or in various clubs on the suite and club level. Team president Michael Yormark said the Panthers wanted to take part in the FDOT's campaign to curtail drunken driving but admitted it was easier to do such a promotion on a Sunday afternoon game than, say, the New Year's Eve game against the Canadiens.
“We wanted to create something different, out of the box, that would send a strong message to the community,'' Yormark said.
“With the holidays, the timing of this really works. We want to create a message of safety. We want everyone to drive sober. We think our fans will embrace it. Sunday is a family day for us. I think other teams will see this and may try it themselves.''