Nathan Horton, left, is congratulated by forward David Booth after Horton scored during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, Jan. 19, 2009, in Sunrise, Fla., tying the score at two and sending the game into overtime. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
CORAL SPRINGS – Despite watching the Panthers lose two of their last three games in shootouts, coach Peter DeBoer isn’t hitting the panic button.
What, me, worry?
After a short, upbeat practice Tuesday morning here at IncredibleIce after a 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres the night before, DeBoer was pleased with his team’s play as they prepare for their final game before the All-Star Break – Wednesday at BankAtlantic Center against the Dallas Stars.
With a come-from-behind victory in Tampa sandwiched between shootout losses to Philadelphia and Buffalo, the Panthers go into Wednesday’s game with a 5-0-3 record in their last eight games and smack in the middle of the playoff race.
“It’s funny,” DeBoer said, “but I think the poorest game we played in was the game we won in Tampa. The game against Philly (3-2 loss) and the game against Buffalo, I thought we played two real good hockey games and we were unfortunate not to get better results in the points department.”
DeBoer thought Monday’s game was “one of our best efforts of the year” while also calling it, “structurally…our best game of the year.” He said the Panthers held the Sabres to seven scoring chances.
“In the second period we had some opportunities, I thought, to extend the lead to 2-0 or 3-0,” he added. “That was the game. You have to give (Sabres’ goalie) Ryan Miller credit. He was in the zone and that was the difference.
“I think games like that, you have to be careful not to beat yourself up. I think we did everything we needed to do to get a win, and their goaltender stole them an extra point.”
Unfortunately for the Panthers, they’re 2-6 in shootouts and have lost six additional points in the playoff race. But DeBoer and his team isn’t going to let it affect their game or take away from their 21-16-8 record.
DeBoer said, from a coaching perspective, shootouts are “tough.”
“You’re used to recognizing problems in your game and fixing them at practice,” he said. “Shootouts are a different animal. There’s nothing system-wide you can do. You can practice it all you want. At the end of the day it’s a confidence play and a skill play on both ends, on the goaltender’s part and the player’s part.
“I don’t want to make a bigger deal than it is. I’m sure we’ll get better at it and we’ll get some luck around (the) net."
Nick Boynton, who missed Monday’s game with the flu, and Ville Peltonen, who saw doctors after a knee-on-knee hit Saturday with suspended Lightning forward Evgeny Artyukhin, both skated.
“We’ll see how they’re doing (Wednesday) morning,” DeBoer said.
When asked if Peltonen, who is also playing through a broken bone in his foot, could play against the Stars, DeBoer replied; “I don’t know. I would say doubtful. He went on (the ice) early (Tuesday) and then stayed for practice.”
“He’s got a big heart and he’s a tough guy,” added DeBoer of Peltonen. “I wouldn’t put anything past him.”