FACEBOOK: On Frozen Pond
This short two game run won't go down as the worst homestand of the season for the Panthers. It just feels like it.
Florida got just two of the available four points in games against Edmonton – with the second-lowest point total in the entire league – and an Islanders team back at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
“We would have liked to get that other point. It's heartbreaking,'' said defenseman Ed Jovanovski, whose stick save with 1:07 left likely saved an Islanders goal and kept the Panthers from losing outright.
“We need to get re-energized and I think the road will be good for us. We're not happy about this. Two teams were completely out of it, but we have to realize the pride and the parity in this league is right there.''
With the host Capitals beating Minnesota on Sunday, Florida's lead in the Southeast Conference shrunk to three points. Florida starts a four-game road trip Tuesday in Montreal, the last big roadie of the regular season. The Panthers lead both Buffalo and Washington by three points for the final spot in the postseason.
“We wanted four of four, but hey, that's life in the big city,'' said center Stephen Weiss, who gave Florida a 1-0 lead 5:55 into the game. “You don't always get what you want. We'll regroup and get back at it.''
Coach Kevin Dineen said he felt better about Sunday's game than he did after the shootout loss to Edmonton on Friday as the Panthers definitely showed a more concerted effort at working toward scoring. Goals have been at a premium for the Cats of late as Florida has been held to three goals or fewer in five straight and are averaging less than two a game during that span.
Sunday, Weiss' opening salvo came when Tomas Fleischmann dug a puck out from behind the net and rifled off a pass to a charging Weiss in the slot. The Islanders ended up tying things late in the first as Jason Garrison sat in the penalty box for a cross-check. Matt Moulson made it 1-1 with his career-high 34th goal of the year.
Jose Theodore saved Florida on numerous occasions throughout the night and ended with 35 saves. Florida retook the lead midway through the third on Fleischmann's 24th of the year as he picked off a clearing pass from Mark Streit and skipped a shot past Evgeni Nabokov (33 saves). But the Islanders tied it not long after when a shot ricocheted off Dmitry Kulikov's stick in front of Theodore and through.
“Tough break for Kulikov,'' Jovanovski said. “His stick was in the right place, right in the lane.''
The Panthers kept coming at Nabokov but couldn't get anything else through. The Islanders, coming off a loss in Tampa Bay on Saturday night, didn't stop charging either and nearly won it in the final minutes when Theodore came out of his crease and tossed his stick while down on the ice. Jovanovski got a piece of the loose puck and kept it from going into a basically empty net.
Florida had chances in overtime, but as usual, didn't finish in the five minute period. The shootout has been a pain for the Panthers ever since it was introduced in 2005 and Sunday was no difference. The Panthers went 0-for-3 and the Islanders got a goal from Frans Nielsen to win it.
“The shootout has been a little bit of a stickler for us this year,'' Dineen said. “We've approached it in different manners and it's still an issue for us.''
The Panthers played in their alternate blue jerseys for the final time on Sunday as they were officially retired.
The silent auction in which fans bid on their favorite player's game jersey from Sunday and had them autographed on the postgame ice raised over $38,000 for the Panthers Foundation's pediatric cancer research fund. Brian Campbell's jersey raised the most, fetching $4,200.
() Referee Tim Peel hasn't had a good week in South Florida. Peel missed Friday's game against Edmonton as Sportsnet reported he suffered from food poisoning. On Sunday, he needed some emergency maintenance after taking a stick to the face, bloodying his nose.
() Florida scratched Mike Santorelli for the sixth time in the past nine games, Keaton Ellerby (fifth straight), Scottie Upshall and Krys Barch on Sunday.