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Panthers fall to Tappara in shootout

Monday, 09.28.2009 / 5:03 PM / 2009 Compuware NHL Premiere

By Matt Sacco - floridapanthers.com

Tampere, Finland - Playing in an unfamiliar place, against an unfamiliar team, the Florida Panthers found themselves in a familiar situation - losing in a shootout. The Cats, buoyed by goals from Nathan Horton and Mike Duco, and 27 saves from Scott Clemmensen, but unable to adapt to an International ice surface and an aggressive opponent, fell 3-2 in a shootout to Finnish Elite League team Tappara in Tampere despite putting 50 shots on net.

Former Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flame Ville Niemenen scored the deciding goal in the third shootout round after Michael Frolik and Ville Koistinen were stopped, and Steven Reinprecht hit the post.

"They played hard and really pushed us the whole game," Cats head coach Pete DeBoer said, after Florida dropped to 4-3-1 in the preseason. "They played desperate and we didn't match their desperation and that's why we lost. But it was a good experience for us and a good lesson heading in to the regular season."

Koistinen had a chance to be the hero in front of his hometown crowd, with over 60 friends and family in the stands.

"That would have been nice," he said.

The Cats looked like they had the game under control early in the third period. After being outshot 27-17 through 40 minutes, DeBoer shuffled the lines and was rewarded when Mike Duco scored on a slapshot to make it 2-1 just two minutes into the final frame.

But with two Panthers in the box just minutes later, Tappara tied the game at two with a pretty five-on-three passing play and went on to outshoot the Panthers 14-8 in an up and down third period.

David Booth, Reinprecht and Horton all had quality chances to put the game away in overtime, but were the victim of inopportune bounces and solid defensive play from the home team.

It was Horton that got the Cats on the board in the first period, scoring on a partially screened wrist shot from the left circle on Florida's first power play. But Tappara was not intimidated by their visiting NHL counterparts, putting 16 shots on Clemmensen and entering the second period tied at one.

"It definitely took a little time getting adjusted to the bigger ice surface but it was good for us," said Panthers captain Bryan McCabe. "It made us skate a little bit more, and the play is a little more open. Nothing wrong with that."

Tappara had the majority of the chances in the second period as well, but Clemmensen was solid in net with 11 saves in the middle period, setting up the third period excitement, and Niemenen's heroics in overtime.

The Panthers won't practice tomorrow but will be back on the ice Wednesday when they take on local Helsinki team Jokerit at Hartwall Areena.

- Playing with an unusual 22-man roster the Cats iced four defensive pairings: McCabe-Leopold, Allen-Koistinen, Kulikov-Seidenberg and Garrision-Backman. Of Garrison, Backman and Kulikov, one or two will be trimmed from the Cats roster by Wednesday at noon eastern time.
- The Panthers began the game with the Sunrise Express line of Weiss-Horton-Booth. The other lines were Reinprecht-Stillman-Frolik, Duco-Matthias-Repik and Kreps-Dvorak-Olesz.
- Scratches for the game were Gregory Campbell, Keith Ballard, Jeff Taffe and Alexander Salak.
- Tomas Vokoun dressed and backed up Clemmensen.
Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares