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FLORIDA PANTHERS NOT GOOD IN OT: Cats 1-4 in OT, Only Win a Shootout in Philly ...

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

No team benefited from the NHL's so-called 'loser's point' more than the Florida Panthers last season.

The Panthers won the Southeast Division and advanced to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade despite losing 18 of the 25 games that went into overtime.

Florida went into the postseason with more overtime losses than any other team that made the playoffs -- and just one fewer than the last-place Canadiens.

The Panthers lamented the loss of those extra points that come with winning games in overtime then just as they are right now.

"It's tough to lose those points,'' Tomas Kopecky said.

Saturday's 6-5 loss to the Lightning was Florida's fourth overtime defeat this season as five of the Panthers' past six games have gone into extra time. Of those five overtime games, the Panthers have gotten the second point just once.

"You're not getting in the playoffs with 48 points. A point a game just isn't going to work,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. "We have to find a way to get a more complete effort and get the two points -- especially at home.''

The Panthers are finding themselves unable to finish lately as two of the past three games have featured 5-3 leads in the third period -- and ended with losses when the final horn sounded.

Florida is 1-4 in overtime this season with all five of those games coming in the past six games.

"Good teams know how to clamp down and win those games,'' Jerred Smithson said afterward. "I truly believe we are a good team and we need to get those two points. No excuse. We let it slip away.''

A good chunk of Florida's overtime losses last season (11 of 18) came in shootouts. The Panthers were really bad in shootouts last season, so much so, general manager Dale Tallon went out and got some shootout help. Alex Kovalev and Peter Mueller have been very strong in shootouts during their career.

So too has rookie Jonathan Huberdeau who was a master at the craft during his junior career.

Yet of Florida's five overtime games, the Panthers' defense has only been good enough to remain tied through overtime to get to a shootout.

"You get stung as many times as we have in a row,'' Dineen said, "and there is a little bit of a confidence factor. I believe we have the right guys who can get the job completed.''

In the Panthers only shootout opportunity this year, Huberdeau and Mueller scored and Jose Theodore stopped the two Philadelphia shots he faced.

NEWS, NOTES

The last time Smithson scored an NHL goal, he was wearing the blue-and-gold of the Nashville Predators.

A lot has changed since then as Smithson found himself in and out of the Nashville lineup as he was shipped south to help the Panthers playoff run on Feb. 24.

Smithson scored his first goal since Oct. 15, 2011, on Saturday. Smithson's goal came with 4.2 seconds left in the second period and tied the score against the Lightning.

"Any time you contribute on the scoreboard it's a bonus,'' said Smithson, who was a healthy scratch in Florida's loss to the Capitals just two games prior.

"I want to score more, I would like to do it more but they seem to have come few and far between. It felt good. The team kind of got a spark from tying it late. It sucks not being in the lineup. I didn't play a great game in Washington, but I want to be there every night. I try to make a point of showing what I can do every night.''

Florida scored two quick goals to open the third and take a 5-3 lead -- momentum all created from Smithson scoring late in the second.

"Every goal was scored within 10 feet of the net,'' said Dineen. "You have to go to those hard places and good things follow.''

-- Dineen continued to give his beleaguered goalies a vote of confidence as he said after Saturday's game that Jose Theodore -- who made 30 saves against the Lightning -- wasn't completely at fault on Saturday.

The Lightning, after all, scored its fourth goal while skating with a 4-on-3 advantage before winning in overtime after the puck flew off the back board and onto Benoit Pouliot's stick.

"He made some really quality saves,'' Dineen said. "That's what we needed. He gave us enough. He didn't have a real chance on the last two.''

-- The line combination of Shawn Matthias and Jack Skille with center Marcel Goc did some damage against the Lightning.

Matthias scored his second goal in the past three games and Skille had a number of chances and cashed in when he took a nice feed from Matthias to beat Anders Lindback.

"We're trying to find some balance in the lineup,'' Dineen said.

Said Skille: "It felt great. Goc and Shawn played really well, played a lot in the offensive zone. Our line got scored on though, right away. As a team we have to play smart and not on our heels.''

MONDAY: MAPLE LEAFS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560
The series: Toronto leads 29-24-7
The game: This is the first meeting of the season between the two teams with Florida winning all four games last year for the second time since 2008-09. The Panthers did plenty of scoring against Toronto last year, scoring five goals in each of the four wins en route to outscoring the Leafs 20-9. The Panthers are riding a four-game winless streak at 0-1-3 and have points in seven of eight (3-1-4). Toronto has won five of six including a 3-0 win over Ottawa on Saturday.

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