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3 posts from March 21, 2013

March 21, 2013

PANTHERS GO TUBTHUMPING IN NEW YORK: Cats Knocked Down, Get Back up and Beat Rangers 3-1 ... Jacob Markstrom Terrific with Career-high 44 Saves


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

NEW YORK -- Sometimes the best thing for a struggling team is a nice long road trip, one in which players can get away from the distractions of friends and family and just concentrate on the task at hand.

Certainly seems to be the case for the Panthers this week.

Two nights after snapping their six game losing streak with a rousing win in North Carolina, the Panthers had Madison Square Garden buzzing -- in a bad way for the home team -- as they dropped the Rangers 3-1.

Florida is 2-0 on its season-long five-game road trip that continues Saturday in New Jersey and moves on to Long Island and Toronto.

"I thought we played our system to a tee, played a good road game,'' said Brian Campbell, whose gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead. "You need good goaltending to win in this league and we got that again. It was a success and we're starting to see some improvement in our overall game.''

The Panthers held a 2-0 lead going into the third period before the Rangers pulled to within a goal with 3:48 remaining.

Only goalie Jacob Markstrom stood tall in the final minutes and Tomas Kopecky was able to get a little revenge after nothing was called when Rick Nash left his feet and hit Kopecky over the head like a professional wrestler.

With Tomas Fleischmann killing a penalty and New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist on the bench, the Rangers had a 6-on-4 advantage. Only Kopecky pulled in a loose puck deep in the Florida zone and flung it an estimated 150 feet into the empty net with 46 seconds left.

"That's Chumbawamba right there,'' Dineen said, referencing the British band from the 1990s. "You get knocked down and get right back up. We're beat up. We have a lot of bodies out, people at home watching. Kopecky wanted to get right back in the fight.''

Kopecky's goal -- his team leading 12th -- gave the Panthers plenty of cushion what with Markstrom outdueling his older Swedish counterpart. Markstrom made a career-high 44 saves; Lundqvist made 21.

"It's a W and that's what matters, but he's a role model to a lot of young kids in Sweden,'' Markstrom, 23, said.

The Panthers, who have struck first in two straight games after falling behind every night during the six-game losing streak, came out flying and made it 1-0 when Campbell got his seventh of the year by cracking a 50-foot slap shot over Lundqvist's shoulder 8:22 in.

Markstrom has been terrific since watching Scott Clemmensen make consecutive starts last week. Since returning, the rookie has stopped 77 of 79 shots.

"Good goaltending leads to good overall play,'' Dineen said. "We were happy with the result here.''

Florida took a 2-0 lead in the second when Jack Skille worked the puck out of the corner and started a battle in front of the net. Scottie Upshall, playing in his 10th game because of various injuries, knocked at the loose puck and put it through at 4:28 of the season.


Dineen said Selleck suffered a concussion after being punched square in the face by Carolina's Kevin Westgarth on Tuesday. "We sent him home so he could start his recovery,'' Dineen said. "It's part of the protocol.''

Selleck was given an automatic suspension for instigating the fight by going in on a line change with 2:58 left in Florida's 4-1 win. Selleck was given a second game suspension on Wednesday -- although because of the concussion, he wouldn't have played anyway.

Dineen, per NHL rule 46.22, was fined $10,000 by the league for Selleck going onto the ice for the fight. Dineen wouldn't talk about the fine when asked about it, although he did allude to it.

"My kids are going to community college now,'' Dineen said.

-- Dineen said injured defenseman Dmitry Kulikov should return to the lineup in the coming days. Kulikov dislocated a shoulder during Florida's loss at Carolina on March 2.

Kulikov, who has missed 10 straight games, said he hasn't been given a timeline on a return but says things are progressing.

"I've been doing a lot off-ice to strengthen the shoulder, get some stability,'' Kulikov said after Florida's morning skate at Chelsea Pier in Manhattan. "It's not good news that it was dislocated, but the good news was there was no surgery. It wasn't as bad as some we've seen here.''

ALEX KOVALEV: Quietly Retires as Member of the Florida Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

NEW YORK -- Panthers general manager Dale Tallon confirmed to The Miami Herald on Thursday night that 40-year-old Alex Kovalev signed his retirement papers and is no longer a member of the Florida organization.

Kovalev, who signed a one-year deal after the lockout ended, hadn't played for the Panthers since getting nine-plus minutes in a loss at Pittsburgh on Feb. 22.

The Panthers and Kovalev parted ways soon afterward as Kovalev practiced with the Panthers on Feb. 24 but was a healthy scratch that night against Boston.

He left the team soon afterward.

Kovalev never did become the NHL's eighth active player to hit the 40 mark since he didn't play after his birthday. Yet, what a career he had.

Beloved in New York and Montreal, appreciated in Pittsburgh and looked on with disdain in Ottawa, Kovalev won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994 and was the final active piece of Mike Keenan's bunch.

Kovalev played in 1,316 NHL games, scoring 430 goals with 599 assists. He also appeared in 123 postseason games, scoring 45 goals with 55 assists.

A Hall of Famer? Perhaps. Based on his playing days in Russia and with the NHL, he most definitely has a case.

That's a big reason why the Panthers didn't force him out by putting him on waivers and making him refuse an assignment to San Antonio.

"He's a classy guy who has had a great career," Tallon said last week.

In 14 games with the Panthers, Kovalev has two goals and three assists. His best game was his first as he got a goal with two assists in Florida's opening night victory over the Hurricanes.

PHOTO BY JOE RIMKUS JR./Miami Herald Staff

ALEX KOVALEV: Quietly Retires as Member of the Florida Panthers

CATS IN THE CITY: Panthers Visit Rangers on Thursday, 7 p.m.

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

NEW YORK -- About to head over to Madison Square Garden for tonight's tilt between the Panthers and homestanding Rangers.

Quick news:

Kevin Dineen confirmed that Eric Selleck has a concussion and has been sent back to South Florida to start healing up.

So that two game suspension for Selleck only means money -- he wasn't going to play anyway.

Dineen also got hit with a $10,000 haircut although he declined to answer when I asked him to confirm the NHL fine.

NHL rules state if a player gets an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of a game -- or during overtime -- the player gets an automatic suspension and the coach gets hit with a fine.

Dineen did say his kids are now heading to community college. He didn't say if they were looking at Miami-Dade or Broward college.

-- Dmitry Kulikov said his injured shoulder is healing up and he's happy to be back skating with the Panthers.

Dineen said Kulikov is expected to be back on the ice during this road trip. Tonight is Game 2 of 5.

-- Have to expect Jacob Markstrom back in goal for the Panthers. I couldn't make it to the morning skate at Chelsea Pier so I didn't see who was getting most of the work.

-- No surprise, but Dineen says he's pulling for Miami in the NCAA tournament. Since coming to South Florida, Dineen has become a fan of the local teams.

Kind of refreshing, actually.