The Panthers finally solved the hex the Ottawa Senators held over them. It couldn't have come at a better time.
Florida's 4-2 victory over Ottawa at BankAtlantic Center on Sunday not only snapped a two-game losing streak and extended its lead in the Southeast Division back to four points, but it ended a nine-game losing streak to the Senators as well.
Ottawa hadn't lost in Sunrise since March 31, 2009 – a run of five straight wins.
“We spoke [Saturday] about how we have to put a stop to these little losing streaks we get on,'' said Shawn Matthias, who after a 6-2 loss to Ottawa on Feb. 15 said the Panthers could ill-afford to let the Ottawa slide reach 10.
The Panthers heard a number of boos after they skated off to the locker room following a first period in which Ottawa took a 2-0 lead. Florida has fallen behind by that score in six of the past eight games.
“When you get as thoroughly outplayed as we did,'' coach Kevin Dineen said, “there has to be some kind of a response.''
When asked what was said at the intermission, Dineen had a sinister look on his face. It was obvious that style of play wasn't to be tolerated.
Matthias said the team was “disgusted” after the opening period.
“We had a little chat,'' Dineen said. “They understood that there wasn't going to be a change in our systems, how we played. I wasn't going to shake up the lines. It was going to come from within.''
Florida was a much different team in the second period with Marcel Goc making it a 2-1 game when he knocked in a Mike Weaver shot over the head of rookie goalie Robin Lehner, making just his 13th career start and fourth since Craig Anderson injured his hand while preparing a meal at his home.
The Panthers made it an even game just over two minutes later when Krys Barch broke loose after taking a feed from Jack Skille. Barch, with 11 goals through his first 296 NHL games, is best known for his fighting.
On Sunday, however, he made a slick move to pull Lehner out of position and fired a sharp shot for Florida's second goal.
“I knew he had the shot, didn't know he had those hands,'' Matthias joked. “They are usually used for something else.''
Mikael Samuelsson gave Florida its first and final lead of the night midway through the second with Ottawa's Chris Neil in for a four-minute penalty after he slashed the mouth of Ed Jovanovski. Samuelsson charged the net and hammered in a pass from Stephen Weiss for his eighth goal since joining the Panthers in October.
Florida played a tight game the rest of the way and struggled to put another one past Lehner before Skille drove in with the puck and backhanded one through with 1:26 left.
“To come back after another home loss to Nashville [Saturday] was good,'' Skille said. “It was nice to get a win for our fans who are itching for the playoffs. You see the standings and know there's not much room for error. If we stick with our character and play the way we can, we'll be OK.''