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Cats Fall 3-0 in Pittsburgh

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Goldie's post-game report:

A 3-0 loss here in Pittsburgh would lead one to think the Panthers were dominated by the Penguins. That wasn't the case. A couple of defensive lapses cost the Cats two goals. They kept the pressure on but could not get anything past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He stopped all 32 shots on goal and made some super saves.

The Panthers have no time to hang their heads as home games against the Capitals on Thursday and the Kings on Saturday are looming. Tought night in a big conference game but these games will happen over the course of a season. The effort and chances were there but the Panthers just got beat here in Pittsburgh.

Goldie's 2nd intermission blog:

Tough 2nd period for the Panthers as thePpenguins scored twice and lead 3-0. Florida took 3 straight penalties and allowed a 5 on 4 goal after killing off Pittsburgh's 5 on 3 advantage. The Cats aren't getting dominated as the scoreboard shows but they have not been able to beat Fluery and score on their chances. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has cashed in on theirs. It is a huge mountain to climb but the Panthers have scored goals in the 3rd period 13 straight times. The last time they failed to score in the 3rd was on December 23rd. The task is not an easy one but this one is not over yet. We have seen 3-0 leads in the 3rd go by the boards before!

Goldie's 1st intermission blog:

The Penguins lead 1-0 after the first on a late goal. The Panthers had good offensive pressure but could not get any of their shots through. The best Florida chance came off the stick of Anthony Stewart off a Stephen Weiss feed. Stewart beat Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury through the legs but the puck slid wide. The Panthers played a good first period but allowed a 2-on-1 that led to the Penguins goal. Fleury and Belfour have both come up with big saves. We will begin the second period 4-on-4.

Goldie's pregame blog:

It's hockey weather here in Pittsburgh. My hat and gloves have been on as it's 20 and snowing...a great day for the Panthers to win their 3rd in a row! The Penguins may have something to say about that though. Sid the Kid and the Pens and 5-0-1 in their last 6 and are in a 3 way tie for a playoff spot. The Cats are 6 points back so tonight's game really is the biggest game of the season to date. The Panthers will roll out the same line-up as Saturday's big home win against the Devils. Don't fix what isn't broken! Ed Belfour is on a tear going 8-1-3 in his last 12 games. Jozef Stumpel and Rostislav Olesz have been making sweet music on the ice, leading the Florida offense of late. Cats come home for Washington on Thursday and LA on Saturday. A win tonight could get the team on a big roll. 7:30 face-off here in Pitt! 7pm airtime on 560 WQAM radio, I'll blog after the first period in the Igloo.

Game Notes vs. Pittsburgh

Jokinen vs. Penguins: Florida's captain Olli Jokinen has had two of his better games against the Penguins this season. Jokinen scored the GWG at Mellon Arena on Dec. 5 as the Cats won 3-2. Then, the last time these two teams met, Jokinen recorded his third career hat-trick in a Panthers 5-2 win over the Pens. Overall, Jokinen has 28 points in only 30 games against Pittsburgh (15-13-28).

CONTROLLING OWN DESTINY: The Panthers will have many more opportunities to make an immediate move up in the Eastern Conference standings. Florida will play Southeast division foes 14 more times included five games with Tampa Bay who currently holds the final playoff spot. The next two games for Florida provide great opportunity to move up in the standings quickly. The Panthers are 2-0 against Pittsburgh this season and have beaten the Capitals (Tuesday's opponent) twice this month, pouring on more then 90 shots against Olaf Kolzig.

NEW ASSISTANT GM: Florida Panthers GM and head coach Jacques Martin announced Friday that he has hired former Ottawa Senators General Manager Randy Sexton as the Panthers new Assistant General Manager. Sexton spent the last three years as the Executive Director of Capital Sports Management Inc. (CSMI), a sister company to the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club. In December, 1990, Sexton was named the first CEO of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club, one week after the NHL granted Terrace Investments a franchise and later became the team's General Manager.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER: As the unofficial second half of the season begins, the Florida Panthers officially begin a stretch of nine consecutive Saturday home games. From tonight until March 24, the Panthers will be at the BankAtlantic Center every Saturday night. Florida has won games each of the last three Saturday's and have won four of the last five times overall when playing a game on Saturday.

OUTSHOOTING THE OPPONENT: Florida's defense has held its opponent to under 20 shots on goal in three of its last five games. The Cats held Washington to 17 shots on Jan. 13 and 18 shots on Jan. 20. Florida held Toronto to only 19 shots on Jan. 18. Meanwhile, the Panthers recorded a franchise-high 55 shots against Washington on Jan. 13 and 42 shots at Washington on Jan. 20. Florida had 41 shots on goal against Toronto on Jan. 18 and 32 Saturday night against New Jersey. Overall, the Cats are averaging 38 shots on goal per game since Jan. 13, a span of five games.

SOLID IN NET: Panthers G Ed Belfour has been strong between the pipes over the Cats last 12 games. Belfour has started in eight of those 12 games and appeared in nine with a record of 5-1-2. He has a GAA over that time period of 2.13 and a save percentage of .917. In four of his past seven starts, Belfour has recorded 24 or more saves.

OLESZ SCORES, PANTHERS WIN: Panthers LW Rostislav Olesz has scored in eight different games this season and has 10 total goals. In all eight games in which he has scored, the Panthers have picked up at least one point. Overall, Florida is 7-0-1 in games which Olesz scores. The Panthers first round pick in the 2004 draft scored two goals in Saturday's win over New Jersey and also had a two-goal game on Jan. 4 in Calgary. Olesz scored a point in four consecutive games from Dec. 14 - 21 and scored a goal in all three games during the Cats three-game win streak that week. When Olesz records a point, Florida is 10-1-3.

GAME-WINNER: D Joel Kwiatkowski scored the GWG in the Panthers 4-2 win over New Jersey Saturday night. It was Kwiatkowski's second GWG of the season which is a career-best for the Kindersley, Saskatchewan native. Kwiatkowski also scored the GWG on Nov. 2 against Toronto. His five goals on the season are now only one off his career-high which he set in Washington during the 2003-04 season.

SPECIALTY TEAMS SUCCESS: The Panthers power play and penalty killing units rank among the top in the NHL. Florida's penalty killing has been on a 90% killing pace over the last 17 games, a key reason to the Cats 9-4-4 mark over that time. Florida's power play has been in the top 10 all season long. The Cats C Jozef Stumpel is racking up the points on the power play this season. Stumpel now has 20 power play points (5-15-20). C Olli Jokinen has 15 power play points (7-8-15). Also, the Cats C Stephen Weiss has scored six PPG and five PP assists this season. D Ruslan Salei leads all Cats defensemen with 16 PP points (1-15-16).

CAPTAIN LEADING THE WAY: Panthers captain C Olli Jokinen had a seven game point streak from Jan. 2 - Jan. 16 The Cats capitan now has 22 goals on the season and leads the team with 52 points (22-30-52). The two-point performace against Carolina on Jan. 16 marked Jokinen's 16th multi-point game this season and seventh multi-point game in the Panthers last 16 games, a stretch in which Florida is 8-4-4. The Panthers leader scored his 150th career goal on Dec. 23 against Carolina and recorded his 300th point as a Panther on Jan. 7 in Vancouver.
Olli's Hat-trick: On Jan. 10 against Pittsburgh, Jokinen recorded his second hat trick of the season and third of his career.
League Leader: Jokinen's 52 points on the season is the 17th highest total in the NHL. The 239 shots Jokinen has put on goal this season are is the second highest total in the league. The Kuopio, Finaldn native has four GWG on the season which is among the NHL's best and his 22 goals rank him in the Top-20 in the NHL..

A GOALIE'S BEST FRIEND: Florida's defense has given Panthers G Ed Belfour three games this season with little work. Jan. 20 against Washington, the Cats defense held the Caps to only 18 shots on goal and one week prior Florida held the Cats to only 17 shots on goal. It was the second lowest shot total against Florida this season. The Panthers held Buffalo to a season-low 16 shots on goal on Dec. 14 and Dec. 16, Florida held Boston to 21 shots on goal. Dec. 26 against Carolina, the Cats held the Hurricanes to only 17 shots in 65 minutes.

CLOSE GAMES: The Panthers have played 51 games this season, and 35 of them have been decided by 2 goals or less. Almost half of the Panthers first 51 games have been decided by one goal. In all 21 games have been decided by one goal with the Cats going 5-6-10 in those games.

LIGHTING THE LAMP: 12 different Panthers have scored a goal in the month. Six different Panthers scored goals during the Cats brief two-game winning streak to end the 2006 calender year. LW Rostislav Olesz, C Jozef Stumpel and D Mike Van Ryn scored goals Dec. 27 against Philadelphia in the Panthers 3-1 win. On Dec. 29, LW Ville Peltonen, RW Nathan Horton and LW Gregory Campbell all scored in the panthers 3-1 win over Montreal. In Edmonton on Jan. 2, C Olli Jokinen scored for the Cats and Thursday night in Calgary D Jay Bouwmeester joined the scoring party, and LW David Booth recorded his first NHL goal. Wednesday night against Pittsburgh, LW Martin Gelinas joined the scoring party, picking up his fourth goal of the season and Thursday night RW Juraj Kolnik scored the first Panthers goal at Carolina. Saturday night against Washington, C Chris Gratton became the 12th different Panther to score in the last month.

STUMPEL'S STREAK - Cats C Jozef Stumpel recorded a five-game point streak from Dec. 10 - Dec. 19. Stumpel had 11 points (3-8-11) in those five games during his streak including back-to-back four point nights at Boston (2-2-4) on Dec. 16 and Toronto (0-4-4)Dec. 19.

Elite Company - Jozef Stumpel now joins Atlanta's Marian Hossa and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby as the only two other players this season who have recorded back-to-back four point games.
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