Ottawa Senators' Jason Spezza, (19) tries to hold back Florida Panthers' Stephen Weiss during second-period NHL hockey action at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Canada, on Saturday Oct. 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Sean Kilpatrick,The Canadian Press)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
The Panthers left Canada late Saturday evening frustrated and disappointed.
And they should have been.
After starting their three-game road trip with a bang in Montreal, the Panthers dropped consecutive games in Toronto and Ottawa and returned home realizing things have to change if they’re going to turn their fortunes Wednesday when the Flyers come to BankAtlantic Center.
After losing a two-goal lead in Toronto, the Panthers were outplayed Saturday in the third period by the Eastern Conference champion Senators 4-1 at Scotiabank Place, and that didn’t set well with captain Olli Jokinen or goalie Tomas Vokoun.
And why should it? The Panthers should have returned home with at least three points, arguably four. Instead they managed only two.
“We as a team didn’t show up and we lost the game,” said Vokoun, who saved the Panthers from being embarrassed by making several spectacular saves, especially in the final four minutes of the second period when the Senators were only leading 2-1.
“We certainly didn’t play good,” Vokoun added. “We didn’t play hard. They (the Senators) are a very good team, but they’re not that good.”
Vokoun, who missed the Toronto game due to a mild ankle sprain, was back to his old self in Ottawa, facing 47 shots and making a number of saves that prevented the game from getting ugly. In the final four minutes of the second period, he made highlight saves on Chris Neil, who seemed to be all over the ice, Chris Kelly and Dany Heatley.
In his last four games, Vokoun has faced 157 shots. Several of the 47 shots Vokoun faced against Ottawa came off faceoffs, where the Panthers were an abysmal 22 percent, winning only 12 of 54 draws. Senator Mike Fisher won 18 of 23 faceoffs and Jason Spezza 15 of 19.
Jokinen layed blame upon himself and the power play unit. “Our power play was terrible,” Jokinen said. “All the guys on the power play better take a look in the mirror.”
Jokinen said the Panthers need to finish their checks. The team, GM and coach Jacques Martin told the media, may also be looking at adding a physical presence.
The road trip had started well for the Panthers. Although they started sluggish in Montreal, the Panthers rallied behind Vokoun’s strong play and forced the game into overtime with a Nathan Horton goal in the final minute. They eventually won the game in a shootout.
But things turned cruel in Toronto when, after taking a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, the Panthers lost 3-2. And the Panthers were never a serious threat in Ottawa after the Senators took a 3-1 lead on a power play goal after defenseman Branislav Mezei was called for interference behind the play.
“That goal (the third goal on the power play by Christoph Schubert) took momentum away,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin. “We have to do a better job staying on the ice.”
The Panthers will have to improve if they hope to gain some points over the next week. The Panthers will play three games in four days beginning Wednesday against Philadelphia. They play host Friday to Buffalo before flying to Nashville to play Saturday against the Predators. Carolina comes to town Oct. 31.
The only good news to come out of the Ottawa game was that David Booth returned home with the team. Booth, who was hit from behind by Senator Anton Volchenkov, was cleared at Ottawa Civic Hospital…