In the early hours of Friday morning while the Panthers returned home from their 5-2 loss to the Rangers, GM and coach Jacques Martin sat on the plane and watched a replay of the game.
Just 10 hours later, Martin succinctly summed up his team’s third period meltdown.
“Bottom line,” Martin began. “We were excellent for 40 minutes then we broke down.”
According to Martin, the four, third-period goals allowed by the Panthers resulted from “making mistakes.”
“For 40 minutes we played smart, made good decisions with the puck, controlled the play, and had good scoring chances” he added. “Then in the third period we didn’t play with the same kind of intensity and not the same kind of decision making.
“It cost us, and certain players have to play better.”
Said Brett McLean, who scored one of the two Panther goals, “We stop skating, really, in the third period.”
The Panthers showed what they’re capable of in the first 40 minutes of Thursday’s game. They were faster, more physical, and played with more energy than last season. But the Panthers unraveled in the third, allowing four goals in the final 13:53. It was unfortunate since the Panthers had shut down Rangers stars Chris Drury and Jaromir Jagr in the opening 40 minutes and had taken the crowd out of the game.
“Once they got that second goal the building came alive,” Martin said. “We did a good job of keeping the fans out of it for two periods. In the second period we kept getting pucks behind their ‘D’ and working their defense. We had success that way. In the third period we turned the puck over. You’ve got to play within your strength. If something is working you don’t change it. You have to play for 60 minutes with the same intensity, dedication and commitment to playing in the system.
“In training camp we showed good poise. We won a lot of games by a goal because we played with poise, we played with confidence. And last night we didn’t have that confidence in the third period and we tried to make fancy plays at times. You can’t do that. It costs you. I think that was the difference in the hockey game.”
Goalie Tomas Vokoun, making his Panther debut, had no shot on some of the Ranger goals, and Martin wasn’t about to lay the loss solely at Vokoun’s skates.
“(Vokoun’s) got to be better than last night,” Martin said. “He knows that. Some of our (other) players have to be better. They know that. I mentioned it to them (Friday) morning. You look at our No. 1 line. They were minus two. They have to be better. They’re our leaders. Our best line (Thursday) was really our third line – Gregory Campbell, (Radek) Dvorak and Brett McLean. Other people have to raise their game.”
The Panthers had meetings off ice and practiced Friday at IncredibleIce while preparing for Saturday’s season opener at the BankAtlantic Center against the Devils.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Martin said. “But it’s a matter of executing and being prepared to battle for 60 minutes.”
Forward Richard Zednik (shoulder) skated Friday but is questionable for Saturday’s home opener. Martin said he’s hoping Zednik will be ready for Wednesday’s game in Tampa.