FACEBOOK: On Frozen Pond
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Panthers got no help from their friends in Boston on Thursday night – and they sure didn't help themselves.
Yes, Florida got a point out of its 3-2 overtime loss to the host Wild. But, for the third time in a week, the Panthers left that extra point sitting on the ice.
The Wild scored with 30.3 seconds left to force overtime then won it when Mikko Koivu broke loose early in the extra session to give the Washington Capitals a little more hope as the Capitals beat host Boston in a shootout and now trail the Panthers by four points in the Southeast Division.
Florida had hoped to wrap up its first-ever division title by the weekend.
The Panthers did hit the 90 point mark for the first time since the 2008-09 team missed the postseason despite getting 93.
“That [third period] goal could have gone either way,'' said Scottie Upshall, whose second period goal gave Florida a 1-0 lead. “We gave a 60 minute effort but they worked hard to come back and got one. These games are crucial and we're not far up on Washington. They're pushing hard.''
After a slow first period, Florida came hard in the second and got the Upshall goal 13:27 into the frame. Upshall, who has only played in 21 games because of sports hernia surgery, shoveled the puck through Backstrom's legs. Upshall scored his first goal as a member of the Panthers on Oct. 24; Thursday's goal was his second.
Upshall has had success playing against the Wild – he now has eight goals and six assists in 16 games – yet he didn't enjoy what happened early in the third as he was slashed working his way through the Florida zone. No penalty was called as Upshall was seen in pain on the ice as he yelled choice words both at the official who didn't make the call as well as toward the Wild bench.
With no penalty called, the Wild tied it soon afterward as the Panthers failed to clear the puck deep in their own zone. Kyle Brodziak picked off the puck and fired it toward one-time Wild goalie Jose Theodore. The long rebound escaped capture from the Panthers and Brodziak swooped in and knocked his own rebound through.
Florida had a great power play chance shortened in the third when Kris Versteeg's stick got caught in the face mask of Minnesota's Tom Gilbert three seconds in what would have been a 5-on-3 chance for a whopping 1:52.
The Panthers didn't have that second man advantage, but did have an extra skater when Tomas Fleischmann potted the game-winner with 6:44 left. Fleischmann took a nice feed from Minnesota-educated Jason Garrison, moved in on Backstrom and froze him, scoring top corner.
The Wild tied it with 30.3 seconds left when Erik Christensen followed up Gilbert's rebound off the post and deposited it.
Minnesota didn't waste any time in the overtime, with Koivu charging in on Theodore and beating him for the winning goal. The Panthers are now 7-16 in overtime as the Wild improved to 10-10 as it beat the Panthers in OT for the second time this season.
“That's a tough one. We were 30 seconds away,'' said Theodore, who made 22 saves. “We still got a big point, but with 30 seconds away, you want the win.''
Florida is 1-0-1 in the first two games on this four-game trip with game No. 3 coming Friday in Columbus against the last-place (in the entire league) Blue Jackets. The Panthers are 6-1-4 in their past 11 games.
It wasn't too long ago that John Madden was trying to stay in game shape by playing in beer league games not far from the arena he was playing in on Thursday. Madden was a free agent waiting for a call until joining the Panthers in January.
Madden, 38, says the toughest part of waiting was the staying in shape part. With a family and no one, really, to skate with, Madden really had to self-motivate.
“I didn't know if that was the end or if there was going to be more hockey. We were about ready to turn the page and move on,'' said Madden, who played for the Wild last season.
--The Wild celebrated its professional hockey heritage Thursday as large group of former Minnesota North Stars were honored on the ice before the game. The North Stars moved from Minneapolis to Dallas in 1993; the Wild started play as an expansion team in 2000.
The Wild hadn't done anything to honor the North Stars since a number took part in the first opening night festivities.
--Mikael Samuelsson was a surprise healthy scratch Thursday after scoring the game-tying goal in Tuesday's shootout win in Montreal. Dineen said after practice that Samuelsson isn't hurt, but at 35, could use a night off as the Panthers are playing at least every other night through the end of the regular season.
Mike Santorelli, Krys Barch and Keaton Ellerby were the other scratches.
FRIDAY: PANTHERS AT BLUE JACKETS
When, Where: 7 p.m.; Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
The series: Columbus leads 7-4-0
The game: The Blue Jackets, who have the fewest points in the league by a wide margin, had lost two straight before upsetting visiting Detroit on Wednesday. Florida has lost four straight to Columbus and haven't beaten the Jackets since 2007.