For 40 minutes the Panthers were right there with the Oilers. But in the other 20 Edmonton thoroughly dominated scoring 4 goals to win 4-1. With 13 minutes left in the 2nd period and the game scoreless the Oilers took over. They scored twice in the 2nd and 2 more in the 3rd to win it going away. Olli Jokinen got the Cats on the board late to spoil the shutout.
Disappoiinting start to the road trip especially considering the Panthers were in a scoreless game with 6:35 to go in the 2nd period. It was a rare game in which the Cats weren't close late. They now go to Calgary and Vancouver and desperately need to come away with some points. Losing the opener on the trip puts them in a tough spot but a win Thrusday will cure the hockey blues.
Goldie's 2nd intermission blog:
Things continued on a pretty good pace to start the 2nd period but with about 13 minutes left Edmonton picked up its play with about 13 minutes to go and it led to a goal. Rafi Torres threw the puck on goal from the boards and it somehow trickled through Ed Belfour. The Oilers scored again on a rush up ice by Ales Hemsky. From that 13 minute mark on the Oilers outshot the Cats 15-0 and scored twice. Florida must get back to skating and playing with energy to get back in the game.
Goldie's 1st intermission blog:
No score after 1 as defense has reigned supreme. Strong start to this road game for the Panthers as they matched the Oilers speed and intensity early on. Edmonton is riding a 4 game losing streak and you knew they would come out strong. Edmonton got the first 2 power plays but the Panthers killed them both off easily. The Cats have been very responsible defensively. They got their 1st power play late in the period as Martin Gelinas drew the penalty but the Cats could not cash in. It's evident they miss Gary Roberts camped out in front of the net. The Panthers are poised to take this game with a good opening 20 minutes.
Goldie's Pre-game Blog:
Hello from western Canada, Edmonton to be specific. Some snow is on the ground but it is not too cold here. Good for my Florida bones and wardrobe! It's 2007 and opportunity time for the Florida Panthers. A 3 game road trip starts tonight and these 180 minutes of hockey will give us some indication of what the final 38 games will hold.
The Cats arrived here at about 10pm eastern time last night. A quick turnaround for tonight's game against the struggling Oilers. They have lost 4 in a row which isn't good news. Edmonton will come out flying and they have Ryan Smyth, 19 goals on the season, back in the line-up. The Panthers will face a desperate, angry team and a full house. Sellouts are par for the course here as the Oil has filled up Rexall Place 52 straight times. The crowd is loud and knowledgable.
Enough about the hometown team and how dangerous they are...the Panthers present a big challenge for the Oliers! Florida is 5-1-1 in its last 7 games, has a red hot goalie in Ed Belfour, has scoring ability on all 4 lines and has played pretty well on the road the last 6 weeks. With Stephen Weiss back in the line-up playing with Gregory Campbell and Jurai Kolnik the Cats have good balance. The top line with Olli Jokinen, Gary Roberts and Nathan Horton doesn't have to bear the entire offensive burden. Horton has been on a goal scoring roll with 5 in his last 6 games. Rostislav Olesz and Ville Peltonen are pitching in offensively and doing super work killing penalties. Jay Bouwmeester is from Edmonton so there is no doubt he will want to play well tonight.
The Panthers are in the playoff race and need to get 3 or 4 points out of 6 on this trip. Thursday it's a meeting with Calgary and then Sunday in Vancouver against Roberto Luongo and the Canucks. These 3 teams are in the same division and all are battling for 1st place. There will be no easy shifts let alone games. The Panthers must match intensity for 60 minutes and get their power play going. I sense the same kind of confidence as last year when the Cats made that big playoff push. The players need it to translate into wins starting tonight. No TV...radio only on 670AM at 8:30.
Improved play in December has given the Florida Panthers reason for optimism. Goaltender Ed Belfour has been largely responsible for that.
Belfour and the Panthers hope to match a season-high three-game win streak when they open a three-game road trip against the slumping Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Tuesday.
The Panthers haven't won in Edmonton in almost 11 years, going 0-4-1 there since a 3-2 victory on Jan. 5, 1996.
Although it's 14th in the Eastern Conference, Florida (15-19-7) has moved within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot with five wins in its last seven games.
The Panthers went 7-5-2 in December after struggling to a 3-7-3 mark in November.
"I was disappointed with our start, but since December, we've competed a lot harder and have been a lot better," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "We know to get a playoff position, we need to keep winning games, we need to put a streak together.
"We're not going to win every game, but we have to be close."
Belfour was outstanding for the second consecutive game Friday, making 32 saves in a 3-1 victory over visiting Montreal.
"Eddie stole the show, he played great for us," Florida's Chris Gratton said. "He kept us in the game. They had some great chances and he made some big, big saves for us and it allowed us to gain some confidence and move in the other direction."
Belfour, who turns 42 in March, is 5-1-1 in his past seven games, allowing 13 goals in that span. He has surrendered three goals or fewer in nine straight starts.
Also contributing lately for the Panthers has been center Nathan Horton, who has five goals and seven points in his last six games.
Center Stephen Weiss returned to the lineup Friday after missing seven games with a shoulder injury. Weiss has just seven goals, but is tied with Jozef Stumpel for second on the team with five power-play tallies. High-scoring right wing Todd Bertuzzi, though, remains sidelined with a back injury.
A season-high four-game losing streak has dropped the Oilers (18-18-2) into last place in the tight Northwest Division in which all five teams are separated by four points.
"We've got to stay focused," Edmonton's Ryan Smyth said. "We believe we're a good hockey team and once we believe that and start playing with confidence, we'll eventually find a way through it."
Smyth scored both of Edmonton's goals Sunday in 4-2 road loss to provincial rival Calgary, but regretted missing two scoring chances in the first 20 seconds of the game.
"Obviously, I'd love to have that one back and capitalize on the chances like that early on in the game," Smyth said. "Off of that, it gave them a little momentum and they capitalized on the first one and from there the rest is history."
While Smyth has scored three goals in three games after missing most of December with a broken thumb, a pair of teammates are struggling to match last season's production.
Forwards Raffi Torres and Shawn Horcoff, who combined for 49 goals in 2005-06, have managed only 12 this season. Torres has one goal in 10 games, while Horcoff has two in his past 12 contests.