March 02, 2015

ALL'S QUIET IN SUNRISE: Panthers stand pat on trade deadline day but make news on Twitter


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The most exciting part of Monday's trade deadline for the Panthers was captain Willie Mitchell taking exception to a comment by a Canadian television analyst and responding to it on Twitter.
Yeah, it was a slow news day.
With general manager Dale Tallon making three trades last week -- including one for future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr -- there wasn't much to do come Monday.
Tallon was believed to be shopping pending free agents Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall but by 3 p.m., Florida didn't make any deals.
"We did most of our work early as did most teams. There wasn't a lot going on,'' Tallon said.
"Teams had done their trades over the past few weeks. We looked at possibilities with other teams and other players, but we knew this was going to be a quiet day. We wanted to help our offense but it's hard to do that.''
Florida's four pending free agents had been on the market all season with Tallon dealing away Sean Bergenheim last Tuesday and Tomas Fleischmann on Saturday.
Although Kopecky and Upshall may not be in the future plans of the Panthers, they are part of their immediate future and can help Florida in its quest for a playoff spot.
Upshall's goal Saturday broke a 3-3 tie in an eventual 5-3 win over the Sabres; Kopecky was back in the lineup on Sunday and had two key scoring chances against the Lightning.
"We're in the hunt, two points out,'' Tallon said. "Team morale is very high, we have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Team chemistry is important and you don't want to disrupt that.''
So now, the Panthers move forward.
With 19 games remaining, coach Gerard Gallant knows who is on his team moving forward.
The Panthers currently have 21 players on the roster so they have room when Mitchell and center Dave Bolland return from injury.
"Tuesday will be a good day for us because we can move on, we know what our team is for the final games,'' Gallant said over the weekend. "It's tough for the guys who are involved in that, but they are pros and know this is part of the business. It will sort itself out.''
Said Upshall: "We know we have 15, 16 forwards and decisions need to be made. As a pro, you just do your job, come to play. We all want to be on this team, make the playoffs here.''
As for Mitchell, he didn't like snide remarks made toward the Panthers by Sportsnet commentator Glenn Healy including one comment in which he referred to Florida as the "mighty Panthers."
That led Mitchell to send a tweet toward Healy poking fun at his 14-year career as an NHL goalie -- as well as making an unprintable suggestion.
Mitchell's tweet caught the attention of the Sportsnet crew with former Panthers coach Doug MacLean defending Mitchell and his former team while good-naturedly ribbing Healy.


Roberto Luongo, himself a master of Twitter, jumped into the fray as well, posting a picture of a crying Terrell Owens with the line "that's my captain!"

Again, it was a slow day.
"God bless Willie,'' Tallon said with a chuckle. "He's a great captain and he's a Panther. We have a good group who really care for each other and believe in themselves, believe in our team. It's all good.''
-- Tallon said Mitchell is close to returning from his undisclosed upper body injury. Bolland is expected to join the Panthers for Tuesday's morning skate.
-- Former Panthers captain Olli Jokinen won't return to Sunrise on Tuesday as Toronto traded him to St. Louis for a sixth round draft pick.
Jokinen made his Toronto debut after being traded there from Nashville against the Panthers on Feb. 17.
Tuesday: Maple Leafs at Panthers
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Toronto leads 33-29-7
Noteworthy: The Leafs have been bad but especially so away from Toronto as they have lost 16 straight road games. Toronto hasn't won on the road since winning at Boston on New Year's Eve.

 

 

 

 


March 01, 2015

ROLLING RIGHT ALONG: Panthers snap home losing skid v Lightning, hold on for wild 4-3 win ... Jagr gets goal, assist as Panthers have nine goals in past two wins

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The Panthers appear to have found their offense.
It couldn't have come at a better time.
On Sunday, Florida newcomer Jaromir Jagr led a balanced attack as the Panthers scored three unanswered goals then held on for dear life to beat Tampa Bay 4-3 at BB&T Center.
The Panthers hadn't beaten the Lightning in Sunrise since their 2011-12 season opener.
That victory kicked off Florida's previous playoff season; the Panthers hope Sunday's victory over Tampa Bay precludes another postseason berth.
Florida is back to being two points back of the final playoff spot.
"This could really be one of those games you look back on,'' defenseman Brian Campbell said.
"They play very well and we knew that. We know the level we have to play at to be consistent and to be good. We have Toronto and Dallas coming up. We need to keep piling them up. We have 19 games left. We know how many wins, how many points we need to get into the playoffs. We need to keep climbing.''
Before Jagr arrived in South Florida, the Panthers offensive had slowed to a crawl, scoring just 11 goals in the previous nine games.
Since Jagr popped into the lineup Saturday against Buffalo, the Panthers have nine goals.
Coincidence?
Probably not.


Sunday, Jagr scored Florida's first goal after being fed in the slot by Jonathan Huberdeau and beating Ben Bishop top shelf.
In the second, tied at 1, Jagr fired a hard shot at Bishop with the puck lingering dangerously around the goal line. Sasha Barkov cleaned it up and Florida had a lead it would not relinquish.
Jagr hadn't scored a goal in 10 games before Sunday.
"It's only been two games but its a big two games and we're back in the race,'' said Jagr, who received the West Point victory jacket after tying Hall of Famer Phil Esposito for fifth all-time on the NHL goals list with 717.
"I came here to try to help this team get into the playoffs and these games are like the playoffs. We have 19 games left, it's exciting.''
Up 2-1, the Panthers kept coming at the Lightning and went into the second intermission up two when Brad Boyes scored a wacky goal by throwing a shot at Bishop from behind the goal cage.
In the third, Florida made it 4-1 on a power play blast from rookie Aaron Ekblad.
Tampa Bay, the NHL's highest-scoring team, didn't sit back and made it a game as Steven Stamkos scored midway through the third before Tyler Johnson made it a one-goal game with 2:44 left.
Backup goalie Al Montoya and Florida's defense stood up, however, and kept the Lightning at bay. The Panthers, who had lost four straight, have victories in consecutive days for the first time this season.
"The guys are going hard to the net,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "We played a real good game against a real good team. They put the press on us late and got some goals. We held on, found a way to get two big points.''
TRADE DAY
After already trading away Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Fleischmann, the Panthers aren't expected to be too busy before Monday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall are being shopped by the Panthers but could remain after the deadline.
Kopecky was in the lineup Sunday after being scratched in the previous three games. Upshall scored the game-winner in Saturday's 5-3 win over the Sabres.
Both players will be free agents on July 1.
"Those are all just rumors, I just want to focus on my shifts,'' said Kopecky, who like Upshall served as an assistant captain Sunday.
"I can control what I can control and that's my work ethic.''
-- Boyes scored his 200th career goal Sunday. He had gone 17 games between goals.
"It's been a while since I've chipped in,'' Boyes said. "It was nice. We need goals.''
-- Campbell played in his 900th NHL game in Saturday's win over the Sabres -- the team which drafted him and he spent eight seasons with.

 

February 28, 2015

JAGR TIME: Jaromir Jagr doesn't land on scoresheet but makes presence known in Florida's 5-3 win ... Brandon Pirri comes off IR, scores twice

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Jaromir Jagr came to the Panthers with the thought he would help their much maligned offense.
And even though the future Hall of Famer didn't find the scoresheet Saturday, Jagr certainly had an effect as Florida recorded its fifth biggest output of the season in a 5-3 win over visiting Buffalo to snap a four-game losing streak.
"He was outstanding,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "He makes your team a lot better, gives your team a a lot of confidence.''
Jagr made his Florida debut Saturday afternoon just hours after he arrived at BB&T Center and headed to the home locker room for the first time.
The 43-year-old winger -- who shares a line with 19-year-old center Sasha Barkov as well as 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau -- ended up playing 21 shifts (17:09) with three shots on goal.
He'll get another chance to snap his eight game scoreless streak when Florida plays host to Tampa Bay on Sunday at 5.
"It was crazy for me since they told me about [the trade] at 4 on Thursday so I didn't have much time to pack up and get down here,'' Jagr said in a introductory postgame press conference.
"It's tough to just go to the game without any practice or preparation. We need every point we can get but this was new for me, not practicing and just jumping in.''
Not only was Jagr on the ice for both of Brandon Pirri's goals, but Pirri -- who was activated off the injured list before the game -- credited Jagr for getting him to take the shot in the first place.
Pirri's goals came just over a minute apart and tied the score at 2 past the midway point of the second period.
"He told me to shoot the puck, said 'you got it','' Pirri said. "I knew I had to be the shooter there, [Brian Campbell] put it in my wheelhouse and I teed off on it.''
Buffalo, the worst team in the NHL, jumped to a two-goal lead on the Panthers even when it looked like it didn't want to.
The Sabres, a team in tank mode as it hopes to hold the top pick in the NHL draft when it's held in Sunrise come June, was held to just 14 shots on goal yet found a way to get three past Roberto Luongo.
Buffalo's final goal tied the score at 3 with 7:06 remaining; the Sabres were being outshot 40-13 at the time.
Yet just when it looked like the Panthers would go to overtime despite thoroughly outplaying an opponent, Scottie Upshall came to the rescue.
Upshall, whom the Panthers have been trying to trade before Monday's deadline, took a feed from Derek MacKenzie in the slot and fired a wrister past Michal Neuvirth (42 saves) with six minutes left.
Buffalo didn't make much noise after that as MacKenzie put the Sabres out of their misery with an empty net goal in the final seconds.
"It felt great, nice to chip in and get on the board again,'' Upshall said. "It was nice to start a big weekend here with a win.''
Said Gallant: "It was tough seeing it tied 3-3. Fortunately for us, it's good to see your so-called fourth line get a goal for us.''
Florida at least kept pace with Boston for the final playoff spot. The Bruins opened their lead on the Panthers to four points after beating the Devils in overtime on Friday.
With the Bruins playing host to an Arizona team that hasn't won since Feb. 9 on Saturday evening, the Panthers couldn't afford to lose to the Sabres.
So the postseason hunt continues. Jagr should help things out.
"I'm going to do my best, that's why I'm here,'' Jagr said. "I've played the game so many years, when you add Europe I think it's the most ever, so I have a lot of experience. This makes me a little more excited. This is a new life.''

Sunday: Lightning at Panthers
When, where: 5 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Florida leads 57-47-10
Noteworthy: The two cross-state rivals haven't met since the season opener on Oct. 9. The Lightning has won five straight over Florida and the Panthers haven't won in Sunrise since their 2011-12 home opener. Al Montoya starts in goal for Florida.

 

 

FLASH THE DUCK: Fleischmann dealt to Anaheim for Dany Heatley, pick ... Tallon says Heatley will get shot with Panthers if 'proves himself'

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The Panthers made another trade before Saturday's game against the Sabres, sending winger Tomas Fleischmann to Anaheim for a future third round pick and former NHL All-Star Dany Heatley.
"We did what we had to do,'' GM Dale Tallon said, "for our case and for Fleischmann. Flash is a real pro, a real good guy. It was all about performance.''
Heatley, who scored four goals in the 2003 All-Star Game in Sunrise while with the Thrashers, has battled injuries the past few years and is currently in the AHL.
The Panthers will keep Heatley in the minors with general manager Dale Tallon saying Heatley will get a chance with Florida if his play picks up in the AHL. In 25 games with Norfolk, Heatley has just two goals and five assists.
Heatley, 34, has played in 869 NHL games with Atlanta, Ottawa, San Jose, Minnesota and Anaheim.
While Heatley has scored close to 400 goals, he's only scored 23 in the past three seasons.
Anaheim signed him to a bargain-basement one-year deal worth $1 million. Florida will pick up about $200,000 of that salary whether he plays in San Antonio or in Sunrise.

Fleischmann was making $4.5 million with the Panthers so the Ducks will pay him about $1 million.
Heatley will join the Rampage in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"I think Dany can go down and give us some offense down the stretch,'' Tallon said. "He has to prove to me that he can do it. He's definitely done it before. He's had some injury-plagued years so it's not easy. But I told him today he'll get a shot with us if he earns that shot. I hope he goes to San Antonio and finds his way.''
As for Fleischmann, rumors had been flying all week that Anaheim wanted to reunite him with former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.
One of Tallon's big signings in the summer of 2011, Fleischmann led Florida in scoring during his first two seasons with the Panthers.
The past two seasons have been a battle for Fleischmann, however. After scoring 39 goals with 96 points in his first two years here, he ended with 15 goals and 49 points in his final two.
Fleischmann left South Florida on Saturday to fly to Anaheim and join his new teammates.
"The performance just wasn't there,'' Tallon said. "He lost his confidence and just needs a fresh start. It's too bad it didn't work out here. He was real good for us, especially the year we made the playoffs. Somewhere along the line it didn't continue.''

 

 

February 27, 2015

WAITING FOR JAGR: Panthers try to end losing skid Saturday as Jaromir Jagr expected to make Florida debut ... Brandon Pirri returns, Willie Mitchell still out

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

For the second straight day, the Panthers went about their business Friday without their newest teammate.
Jaromir Jagr, acquired in a trade with New Jersey on Friday afternoon, is expected to join the team Saturday before Florida plays host to Buffalo at BB&T Center at 3 p.m.
Jagr, the 42-year-old right winger who made his NHL debut three seasons before the Florida Panthers hit the ice for the first time, will likely see plenty of time on one of Florida's top lines and try and help a power play ranked 28th in the league.
"I heard about the trade when I came in [Thursday] and it was just amazing to hear,'' said 19-year-old Sasha Barkov, who could center the future Hall of Famer against the Sabres.
"He was a top player in the league, won two Stanley Cups before I was born. He's one of the great players who can score from anywhere on the ice. It's a good thing for us.''
Already, the team is banking on Jagr's star power to invigorate ticket sales as well as help kickstart a stagnant offense.
Florida was shutout 3-0 by Chicago on Thursday night and hasn't scored more than two goals in a game since putting up three on the reeling Maple Leafs last week in Toronto.
Among teams within six points of a playoff spot, the Panthers have the fewest goals (2.28 per game) and the highest goal differential (minus-27).
Since beating the Ducks 6-2 on Feb. 10, Florida is averaging a meager 1.2 goals per game.
Although Jagr only has 11 goals in 57 games with New Jersey this season, the Panthers hope more top-line minutes as well as more offensive creativity will get him going.
Jagr's 24 goals and 67 points last season would have led the Panthers. This year, his 11 goals would be good for third on the team and his 29 points place him fifth.
"We can find a place for him on roster somewhere, for sure,'' said coach Gerard Gallant, whose final season as an NHL regular was with Tampa Bay during Florida's inaugural season of 1993-94. Gallant faced the young, mullet-sporting Jagr when he was first breaking in with the Penguins.
"We all know what he is. He's an older guy, but he's still a real good hockey player. He brings some credibility to our hockey club and I think he'll be a real good fit with our group. I don't know the guy that well, but I played against him. That tells you how long he's been around.''
For the second straight year, Buffalo gets to be the team Florida's new star breaks out against.
Last year, Roberto Luongo played his first game with the Panthers after being reacquired from Vancouver and shut out the Sabres 2-0 on March 7.
“[Jagr] was by far one of my favorite players I got to watch,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan told reporters in Buffalo on Friday.
“The Florida Panthers are a young team that needs some proper leadership and direction to get them in that next hump. It’s a great move.”
New executive chairman Peter Luukko saw Jagr's influence on young players first hand while president of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Luukko, whose opinion on the deal was sought out by general manager Dale Tallon, said players such as Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux benefited from having Jagr as a teammate.
Jagr's work ethic is so strong the Flyers and other teams he's played for gave him a key to their training facility so he could work out whenever the mood struck him.
The Panthers are banking on Jagr's work acumen rubbing off on their many impressionable youngsters.
"He was an incredible influence in our locker room, especially with our younger players in terms of leading by example,'' Luukko said.
"No one worked harder on our team. .-.-. When Dale called me and mentioned we had a chance to get in on the Jagr deal, I told him he was a first-class, awesome guy. I was 1,000 percent behind this.''
PIRRI RETURNS
Brandon Pirri centered Florida's third line with Vincent Trocheck and Jimmy Hayes on Friday and has been cleared to return to the lineup.
Pirri has been out since injuring a shoulder Feb. 10.
Defenseman Willie Mitchell practiced again Friday but won't play against the Sabres.
"He's still day-to-day,'' Gallant said.
-- Garrett Wilson remained with the team Friday as center Derek MacKenzie didn't practice after blocking a shot during Thursday's game.
"He's fine,'' Gallant said. "He took a maintence day to get some treatment on it, but he's fine for [Saturday].''
Saturday: Sabres at Panthers
When, where: 3 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WFTL 850
Series: Buffalo leads 45-34-4
Noteworthy: This is the fifth and final meeting of the season with Florida 3-0-1 so far. Roberto Luongo has won six of seven against the Sabres and five straight.


 

 

February 26, 2015

HELP ON THE WAY: Trade for Jaromir Jagr should help scoring-deficient Panthers as Cats lose fourth straight ... Chicago takes control and wins 3-0

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Dale Tallon believes his Panthers are a playoff team and Thursday, he got them some help in their quest by acquiring future Hall of Fame winger Jaromir Jagr.
Hours before Florida lost 3-0 to the visiting Blackhawks at BB&T Center, Tallon swung a deal bringing the 43-year-old Jagr south for a pair of draft picks.
Jagr, the NHL's active leader in just about every category, is expected to be in South Florida on Friday and make his Panthers' debut Saturday against the visiting Sabres.
"We’re committed to winning,'' said Tallon, whose team has lost four straight but remains two points back of the final playoff spot.
"We want to win a championship. We’re putting the pieces together, step by step, and we’re hopeful that Jaromir can lead these young guys to the promised land. It’s a win-win for us."
Thursday's loss put a spotlight on Florida's biggest weakness -- a lack of scoring.
Jagr, obviously, knows a little something about putting the puck in the back of the net.
Jagr broke in with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990 and won a pair of Stanley Cups alongside Mario Lemuiex.
A nine-time All-Star and 15-time 30-goal scorer, Jagr has slowed a bit over the years but should bring the Panthers an added spark on a power play ranked 27th in the league and give them a dangerous scoring option on one of Florida's top two lines.
Thursday, the Panthers were shutout for the second time in eight games; Florida has been held to two goals or fewer in five straight.
"He's still got it,'' Tallon said. "He's still outstanding, still great to watch.''
Jagr had 11 goals in 57 games with the Devils and recently complained of diminishing playing time since New Jersey fired former Florida coach Pete DeBoer in December.
In 1,530 NHL games, Jagr has 716 goals and 1,068 assists. Jagr also scored 66 goals in three seasons in the KHL from 2008-11.



"This is a real jolt for a team that's winning and close to the playoffs,'' said Chicago television analyst Ed Olczyk, a teammate of Jagr's for two seasons in Pittsburgh.
"This is a real strong message to the players in that locker room that their management is serious about winning. On the ice, he can still generate offense, he's won before and has a great work ethic. He's just a terrific guy.''
The price for Jagr wasn't cheap -- but wasn't all that steep either.
Florida will give up its second round selection in this upcoming draft (hosted by the Panthers in Sunrise) and a conditional third round pick in 2016. The Panthers will also pick up around $850,000 in salary.
What Florida gets back is a tireless worker whom the Panthers hope will give the team's young players invaluable guidance.
Thursday, Tallon said he hoped Jagr would return to play with the Panthers next season -- and beyond.
"I’d love to see him play another year or two here,'' Tallon said. "That’s what his goal is. His fitness level is second to none.''
THURSDAY'S GAME
Chicago finished its sweep of a rare home-and-home series with the Panthers by scoring early in the first (Teuvo Teravainen) and second (Brandon Saad) periods. Jonathan Toews potted an empty-net goal with 47 seconds remaining.
Teravainen was recalled from the minors Wednesday to replace the injured Patrick Kane who is out three months after breaking his collarbone in Tuesday's shootout win over the Panthers.
Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic, whose shove sent Kane into the boards, didn't face any retribution from the Blackhawks.
The Panthers are 3-5-3 in their past 11 games with 21 games remaining. Florida has lost seven straight to Chicago.
"Chicago played a playoff-atmosphere type game,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "I liked the way we battled and competed but we just weren't good enough [Thursday]. They were a better team, one of the best teams in hockey.''
-- Winger Brandon Pirri, out the past two weeks with a shoulder injury, is close to returning and could be back against Buffalo or Tampa Bay on Sunday.
-- With the trade deadline set for Monday at 3 p.m., Florida winger Tomas Fleischmann is getting a lot of attention from Western Conference teams.
A pending free agent, Fleischmann played in his 262nd game over four seasons with the Panthers on Friday.
-- Winger Garrett Wilson played in his second game since being recalled from the minors on Monday. He's expected to be sent back to San Antonio to make roster space for Jagr.
-- The Panthers will hold an open workout at the Coral Springs IceDen on Friday at 11 a.m.

Jagr jersey photo courtesty of @FlaPanthers

Jagr scoreboard photo courtesy of @DavidDwork

 

BIG MOVE: Panthers acquire Jaromir Jagr for playoff push, give up draft picks

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers addressed their biggest need on Thursday -- scoring -- by trading for future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.
Florida picked up the 43-year-old winger for a pair of draft picks.
New Jersey will get Florida's second round selection in this upcoming draft (held at the BB&T Center in Sunrise) and a conditional third round pick in 2016.
Jagr broke in with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990 and won a pair of Stanley Cups alongside Mario Lemuiex.
A nine-time All-Star and 15-time 30-goal scorer, Jagr has slowed a bit over the years but should bring the Panthers an added spark on a power play ranked 28th in the league and give them a dangerous scoring option.
Jagr had 11 goals in 57 games with the Devils as he recently complained of diminishing playing time since New Jersey fired former Florida coach Pete DeBoer in December.
In 1,530 NHL games, Jagr has 716 goals and 1,068 assists.
Jagr also scored 66 goals in three seasons in the KHL from 2008-11.
In his four seasons since returning from playing abroad, Jagr has 69 goals with Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas and New Jersey.
Jagr is first among active NHL players in points (1,784), games played (1,530), assists (1,068), goals (716), plus/minus (+284) and power play goals (202).
Among all-time NHL leaders, he ranks first in game-winning goals (127), fifth in points, sixth in goals, seventh in assists and 13th in games played.

 

February 25, 2015

THE CHICAGO WAY?: Alex Petrovic won't face suspension as Chicago comes to Sunrise without Patrick Kane ... Florida kicks off long homestand ... Sean Bergenheim happy in the Wild

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic will not be suspended for a hit that injured Chicago's Patrick Kane on Tuesday — but he could have a target on his back come Thursday.
With the Panthers and Chicago playing a rare home-and-home series, Petrovic could find some leftover anger from the Blackhawks when they visit BB&T Center on Thursday night.
Kane, tied for the NHL lead with 64 points, is expected to be miss three months after havingg surgery on a broken collarbone on Wednesday.
Petrovic was given a two-minute penalty for cross-checking Kane midway through the first period of Chicago's eventual 3-2 shootout win at United Center.
After reviewing the play — Petrovic gave Kane a slight shove causing Kane to lose his balance and crash into the boards leading with his left shoulder — the NHL decided no further discipline was warranted.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was incensed on the bench after Kane skated off to the locker room but didn't rip into Petrovic in his postgame media session saying only "live, it looked a little dangerous.''
The Blackhawks and Panthers were both off on Wednesday.


"We're missing a valuable guy, one who is having a year that's very noticeable,'' Quenneville said of Kane, a past postseason MVP who was the top pick of the 2007 NHL draft by current Florida general manager Dale Tallon.
"We still have to stick with it, go with what you've got.''
Former Florida winger Kris Versteeg, who scored Chicago's second goal Tuesday, said Kane is "irreplaceable.''
"You're really ticked off when a player like him gets hurt,'' Versteeg said. "You never want to see someone like that hurt, someone that exciting who people pay to watch play. It's not good for the game."
Kane, 26, is the second high-profile player knocked out for some time by the Panthers this month.
On Feb. 13, Dmitry Kulikov's low body check took out Dallas' Tyler Seguin at the knees. Seguin is expected to miss at least another month with an MCL strain.
Kulikov was suspended four games for the hit, one Seguin called "dirty."
Kane was placed on the long-term injury list.
"You're talking about one of the best players in the league so there's no doubt,'' Florida coach Gerard Gallant said when asked if the Blackhawks are a different team without Kane. "It's unfortunate he got hurt.''
IN THE HUNT
The Panthers battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the third period as Jussi Jokinen and Vincent Trocheck scored in a span of four minutes to gain a point by forcing overtime.
Despite Florida’s strong offensive push in the final minute of overtime, the game went to a shootout where Chicago scored on its two attempts and the Panthers went scoreless against goalie Scott Darling.
The Panthers kick off a season-long seven-game homestand Thursday against the Blackhawks and do so two points back of Boston for the final playoff spot.
"We don't give up,'' goalie Roberto Luongo said. "It's exciting to be in a playoff race at this time of year but we have a lot of work to do. We know that. But we want to keep growing and getting better and have a chance to sneak in.''
-- Sean Bergenheim said he was happy to be traded by the Panthers to Minnesota on Tuesday as he joins another team in the midst of a playoff run.
Bergenheim could make his debut with the Wild Thursday in Nashville after being a healthy scratch in six straight games and nine of the previous 11 by the Panthers.
"I was very very happy. I kind of expected something would happen before the trade deadline,'' said Bergenheim, who in fact asked the Panthers for a trade earlier this month.

Thursday: Blackhawks at Panthers
When, where:
7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Chicago leads 18-9-3
Noteworthy: Florida has lost six straight to the Blackhawks and three straight overall after Tuesday's 3-2 shootout loss in Chicago. The Panthers kick off a seven-game homestand with three games in the next four days.

 

February 16, 2015

FOUR GAME VACATION: Dmitry Kulikov gets four games for hit on Tyler Seguin; Can return to Panthers on Sunday in Pittsburgh

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was suspended four games for his hit on Dallas' Tyler Seguin.
Kulikov missed Florida's 2-1 shootout loss to St. Louis on Sunday pending Monday's ruling.
Seguin, who was the second-highest scorer in the league at the time of Friday's hit, is out at least a month with a knee injury.
Although Kulikov was offered an in-person meeting with the NHL's Department of Player Safety in New York, he declined and instead held his hearing over the phone Monday morning as his teammates practiced at BB&T Center.
Kulikov did not travel with the team to Canada on Monday and will miss Florida's three-game tour in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Kulikov is expected to meet the team in Pittsburgh and could be in the lineup Sunday against the Penguins
By missing four games, Kulikov will forfeit $93,189.96 with that money going to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
"Kulikov bent severely at the waist and throws his body at Seguin's knees flipping Seguin and causing a significant knee injury,'' said Patrick Burke, an NHL player safety director, on the video explaining the ruling.
Kulikov went in for a hip check on Seguin as the Dallas forward crossed into the Florida zone.
Seguin made a pass and didn't see Kulikov coming. Although hip checks are legal, Kulikov appeared to mis-time his and took out Seguin at the knees with his upper body.
The league made the determination that Kulikov's hit was not a hip check but a low body check.
At the time of the hit, Kulikov was charged five minutes for clipping and given a 10-minute game misconduct. There was just 6:55 remaining in what became a 2-0 loss to the Stars.
"It's illegal to throw a body check below the knees,'' Burke said. "The player delivering the check is responsible for any consequences. In this case, Kulikov delivered a dangerous hit that is excessively low leaving the opposing player no way to defend or brace for the contact.''
Florida could have some defensive help coming back soon as captain Willie Mitchell is close to a return. Mitchell practiced Monday and traveled to Canada.
"He's skated four straight days and he's doing well,'' coach Gerard Gallant said.

Here is the NHL video on the incident:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=60&id=754213&lang=en

 

HEY OLLI: Former Panthers captain lands in Toronto, doubtful for Tuesday's game against Florida

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
The Panthers face a Toronto team clearly in the throes of a rebuild Tuesday.
The Maple Leafs, who replaced coach Randy Carlyle with former Florida interim coach Peter Horachek last month, have lost 17 of 19 and came into Monday 12 points out of the final playoff spot in the East.
On Sunday, Toronto traded pending free agents Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson to Nashville. More trades are in the works.
"It has to be tough and I'm sure they're feeling it,'' said Dave Bolland, who played for the Leafs last season.
"When you're in the dumps, people get on you. You have to block it out to do what you need to do on the ice.''
Former Florida captain Olli Jokinen was acquired by the Leafs on Sunday and reported for duty on Monday despite his displeasure with the trade.
Jokinen cannot skate until Santorelli and Franson pass their physicals with Nashville. Word is, he will not face the Panthers for the third time this season.
"As a player, you got to a new team and you try and fit in,'' Jokinen said. "You have a job to do and have to respect the game, respect the players you play with. You have to enjoy playing this game. That's the bottom line. You do what they tell you.''
Jokinen isn't expected to be in Toronto long as general manager Dave Nonis has said he will try find the 15-year veteran a home on a playoff contender by the March 2 trade deadline.
Although he's played in 1217 NHL games (567 over seven seasons with the Panthers), Jokinen appeared in just six postseason games with Calgary in 2009.
Nashville is atop the Western Conference and considered a serious Stanley Cup contender.
"You want to see a guy like that succeed, go to the playoffs,'' said Florida goalie Al Montoya, who played with Jokinen in Winnipeg.
"He went from one of the best teams to a team thatt looks like it's rebuilding. He's a professional, has been his whole career. He knows this game is a business.''
Tuesday: Panthers at Maple Leafs
When, where: 7 p.m.; Air Canada Center, Toronto
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Toronto leads 33-28-7
Noteworthy: Florida has won four of five against the Leafs including a 6-4 decision in Sunrise.

 

February 15, 2015

POINTED COMMENTS: Nick Bjugstad, Roberto Luongo get Panthers a point, displeased it was only one in 2-1 loss to Blues

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Nick Bjugstad and Roberto Luongo were the biggest reasons the Panthers at least got a point out of Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss to the visiting Blues.
Neither one was all too pleased about it. One point simply isn't good enough right now.
"That's not a great mentality to have,'' Luongo said. "You want to win games, that's the mentality that gets you into the playoffs.''
Bjugstad has been the only Florida player to score in the past three games and Sunday, his shot with 1:13 left tied the score and forced overtime after Florida pulled Luongo to add an extra attacker.
"A point is nice, but we want to win,'' Bjugstad said. "You can't be satisfied with that.''
Florida's defensive play has been better lately although its offense has gone dry.
In the Panthers' three-game winless streak (0-2-1), Florida has just two Bjugstad goals -- both odd-angled shots from the goal line -- to show for it.
With goals at a premium, Luongo and St. Louis counterpart Brian Elliott did plenty of heavy lifting.
The Blues' lone goal came midway through the second when Jaden Schwartz's high wrister beat Luongo on St. Louis' 20th shot.
Aside from that, Luongo made 32 saves not including three in the shootout. The Blues' won that 2-1 in the fifth round after Jori Lehtera scored and Jimmy Hayes was stopped.
Elliott earned first star honors after he made 40 saves -- not counting four in the shootout.
"Our goalie was our best player,'' St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said on his way to the bus. "See you tomorrow."
With the point, Florida finally pulled within three points of idle Boston for the final playoff spot in the East. After last Tuesday's 6-2 rout of Anaheim, Florida was four points out.
Then the offense went flat.
"We battled hard, tying it up at the end was huge at the end,'' Luongo said. "It's nice to get a point but it's not going to cut it if we don't start winning games.''
-- Sean Bergenheim, who has asked the Panthers for a trade, was a healthy scratch for the second straight game and fifth time in the past seven.

STEVE MONTADOR: 1979-2015


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards


The Panthers held a moment of silence for defenseman Steve Montador who was found dead in his suburban Toronto home on Sunday morning.


Montador, 35, spent three seasons with the Panthers from 2005-08 and played for five other NHL teams as well.
Popular with teammates and fans alike, Montador had been open about his battle with depression he says was caused by concussions.
"I consider Monty one of my closest friends,'' said St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, a teammate in Florida.
"I heard about it just before we got to the rink. I'm still in disbelief. I don't know what happened. It sucks. I don't think anyone who ever played with him had a bad word to say. He was always happy, smiling. I saw him earlier this year in L.A., spoke to him at Christmas. I wish I would have called him more often.''
Luongo only spent one season with Montador but the two had a lasting relationship. Montador frequented the Italian restaurant Luongo's in-laws owned and the two stayed in touch.
"I've been sad all day. He's been in my thoughts the entire day,'' Luongo said. "He's my age and that's kind of a reality check. You never know what a day will bring. It's tough to hear news like this.''
Martin Gelinas -- who played with Montador with the Flames and Panthers -- fought back tears as he spoke to reporters in Calgary.
"Nobody has a bad thing to say about Steve,'' Gelinas said. "He was a fun guy to be around.''


Photo courtesy of @DavidDwork


 


February 14, 2015

PAYING THE PRICE: Dmitry Kulikov suspended for hit on Tyler Seguin; length to be determined

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
DALLAS -- The Panthers will be without defenseman Dmitry Kulikov for Sunday's game against St. Louis.
How long he'll be out of the lineup will be determined soon.
Kulikov has been suspended by the NHL for his rolling hip check on Dallas' Tyler Seguin in the third period of Florida's 2-0 loss to the Stars.
Seguin, second in the NHL in scoring this year and Dallas' leader with 29 goals, had to be helped off the ice after being taken out at the knees. Seguin was placed on the injured reserve list by the Stars on Saturday and is expected to miss a few weeks at minimum.
"It's a dirty shot, something that takes your best player not only out of the game, but out of our lineup for a little bit,'' Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said afterward.
"Let the league deal with it. I used to yell and scream about things like this and it didn't do any good. It's just a shot that didn't need to happen.''
The league is obviously dealing with it.
Kulikov was granted an in-person hearing by the NHL's player safety department but he turned it down. Kulikov's hearing will now take place over the phone on Monday.
That means Kulikov will be given the opportunity to plead his case as his suspension could be in excess of five games -- starting with Sunday's matchup with the Blues.
Kulikov was given a five-minute major for clipping and a 10-minute game misconduct. He left the ice with 6:55 remaining in the game.
Florida coach Gerard Gallant was seen discussing things with the officials drawing boos from the crowd at AmericanAirlines Center.
After the game, Gallant said he wasn't arguing with the officials over Kulikov's on-ice penalty but he said he was just getting clarification.
"It was the right call,'' Gallant said. "It was a five minute and a game misconduct. There's no issue.''
With Kulikov out, the Panthers recalled veteran defenseman Shane O'Brien from their AHL affiliate in San Antonio.
This will be O'Brien's third stint with the Panthers. The 31-year-old has played in four games with Florida and has appeared in 532 NHL games over the course of his career.
The Panthers had sent Dylan Olsen to San Antonio after he cleared waivers on Jan. 30.
Olsen wasn't available for recall, however, as he has yet to report to the minors.
The Panthers say Olsen is dealing with a "personal matter" and is back home in Canada.
It's not known whether Olsen has been skating or plans on reporting to the Rampage.
TOUGH STRETCH
In a span of 13 days, the Panthers play seven road games with only one at home.
And just their luck, it's the St. Louis Blues who are waiting for them in South Florida.
The Blues, who dismantled the Lightning 6-3 in Tampa on Thursday, have won nine of their past 11. St. Louis has also won five straight against the Panthers.
After Sunday's game, Florida takes off again -- this time for five games. The Panthers will play three games in Canada (Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa) before visiting Pittsburgh and Chicago.
"We have a really tough matchup against St. Louis, we know how good they are,'' defenseman Erik Gudbranson said.
"The games are getting tight and we know that. [Friday's loss] is a tough one to swallow, but we'll regroup.''
-- Defenseman Alex Petrovic laughed off his disappearing act on Friday. Petrovic went to check Vern Fiddler into the boards only Fiddler quickly stopped with Petrovic continuing.
As Petrovic hung halfway over the boards -- there was no glass because it was between the two benches -- Fiddler pushed Petrovic the rest of the way.
"I guess they don't have boards like that in the AHL,'' Petrovic said with a smile. "I thought I could get him, then he pulled a fast one on me. That's OK though.''
Sunday: Blues at Panthers
When, Where: 5 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: St. Louis leads 18-7-3
Noteworthy: The Panthers lost out to the Blues in their only other meeting this year 4-2 as two pucks went in off Florida players and another went into an empty net.


 

February 13, 2015

THE STARS ARE BIG AND BRIGHT: Dallas takes 2-0 lead, clamps down on Panthers in shutout win ... Costly win for Stars as Seguin, Eaves and Hemsky hurt


TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

DALLAS -- The Panthers kicked off perhaps their toughest and most important stretch of games this season with Thursday's loss in Minnesota.

After Friday's 2-0 loss to the host Stars, this run of playing seven of eight away from home only looks more daunting.
For the second straight night, the Panthers failed to create much offense against a team -- like themselves -- on the periphery of the playoff race.
Thursday, Minnesota pulled to within two points of a postseason spot with its 2-1 win over the Panthers. Dallas got to within three after Friday. Florida, by getting none of the available four points, stayed flat.
"Hats off to these guys, we came out after a back-to-back and put pucks on net,'' said Florida goalie Al Montoya who didn't celebrate his 30th birthday the way he wanted as Kari Lehtonen got the shutout with 37 saves.
"The guy at the other end was seeing everything. He was on tonight and saw everything.''
Like Thursday, there wasn't a whole lot to get excited about as Dallas' defensive style stymied the Panthers.
After taking a two goal lead in the first, the Stars clamped down.
Once Dallas' Jason Spezza made it 2-0 on a fabulous goal in which he picked up the puck in the slot, spun around and flung a wrister past Montoya (26 saves), the entertainment level hit the skids.
The biggest highlight after Spezza's SportsCenter-worthy goal came when Florida's Alex Petrovic almost crushed broadcaster Billy Lindsay when he went flying over the boards.
In the second, Petrovic went to check Dallas pest Vernon Fiddler just past the Florida bench. Only Fiddler slammed on the brakes, Petrovic's momentum swinging him over the boards and into Lindsay who was working in the area between the two benches for Fox Florida.
Fiddler then helped Petrovic all the way over leading the Dallas in-house crew to set the numerous replays to R. Kelly's 'I Believe I Can Fly.'
"I guess they don't have boards like that in the AHL,'' Petrovic said with a smile. "I thought I could get him, then he pulled a fast one on me. That's OK though.''
Petrovic's disappearing act was not only humorous -- cameras showed him smiling afterward -- but one of the only memorable things the Panthers did in Dallas.
Dmitry Kulikov was thrown out of the game with 6:55 left after his low hip check took Tyler Seguin out at the knees.
Kulikov was given five minutes for clipping and a game misconduct.
Seguin, whose 59 points are second in the league, was helped off the ice and didn't return.
Dallas coach Lindy Ruff, a former Florida assistant back in the expansion days, said Kulikov's hit was dirty and that Seguin is going to be out of the lineup for some time.
"It's a dirty shot, something that takes your best player not only out of the game, but out of our lineup for a little bit,'' Ruff said.
"Let the league deal with it. I used to yell and scream about things like this and it didn't do any good. It's just a shot that didn't need to happen.''
Moments later, Dallas' Patrick Eaves took a slapshot off the side of the head from John Klingberg.
Eaves hit the ice and didn't move for a few minutes as medical personnel was brought out to check on him.
Eaves eventually was brought to his feet and helped to the locker room. Eaves was evaluated underneath the seating areas being taken to a local hospital.
"He's had a previous injury there so we're pretty concerned,'' Ruff said.

 

 


NUMBERED DAYS: Sean Bergenheim scratched, upset at Gerard Gallant comments questioning his effort ... Has demanded trade from team

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

DALLAS -- Panthers coach Gerard Gallant stirred up a little controversy Friday when in explaining why Sean Bergenheim was scratched -- again -- he questioned the veteran winger's effort.
When asked if Bergenheim gave him 100 percent effort, Gallant stared straight ahead.
Then he answered: "If he gave me 100 percent, he would be playing. That's fair. But there's a few guys who didn't give 100 percent last night. You just have to make a decision."
Gallant has been steadfast in defending the veteran players (Bergenheim, Tomas Kopecky, Scottie Upshall) he's had to put on the bench lately.
He did so again on Friday, saying he had nothing against Bergenheim.
"I'm trying to win,'' Gallant said. "When I made my decision with my coaches, it was only who gives us the best chance to win.''
Bergenheim said Friday he requested a trade from the Panthers earlier this month when he was a healthy scratch in three straight games.
He said Gallant never came to him with questions about his effort -- and he disagreed with that assessment.
"All I've done is give everything I have every time I'm on the ice,'' Bergenheim said.
"I've played as hard as I can for the Panthers. So to read something like that is upsetting. [Gallant] didn't say anything; he told me I wasn't playing but didn't say why. I got comments from some assistant coaches who said they liked the way I played, said I 'was flying.' I tried. What can you do?
Bergenheim asking for a trade isn't much more than a formality as the Panthers have been shopping him around. A pending free agent on July 1, Bergenheim's days with the Panthers were already numbered -- only now his exit seems to have been accelerated.
"I wish none of this would have come out,'' Bergenheim said. "When I asked for a trade, I thought everything would be kept -- as it should -- within the team. This shouldn't have been done this way.
"I just want to play. And this could be good for the Panthers. Maybe they get something in return that helps them become a better team."
As Bergenheim notes, Florida has a number of pending free agents. Perhaps not coincidentally, they've also been healthy scratched in the past few weeks. Gallant said Friday that GM Dale Tallon has not made any demands of who is in or out of the lineup.

"I think from the Panthers side, well, they've known about the situation and it's not just about me,'' Bergenheim said.

"They have to make some decisions and I'm one of those. I want to play hockey, play somewhere where my style of play is valued and appreciated.''
When asked if he would be surprised to be traded, Bergenheim didn't flinch.
"No,'' he said. "I don't know the full timeline of it, but they have to make a decision. Whatever they decide, they decide.''

 

 

 

February 12, 2015

BJUGSTAD'S HOMETOWN GOAL NOT ENOUGH: Panthers continue losing ways in Minnesota with 2-1 loss to Wild

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- The Xcel Energy Center is one of the nicest and cleanest buildings in the NHL yet for the Panthers and Roberto Luongo, it may as well be the county dump.
Aside from pulling off a couple trades here at the draft a few years back, Florida hasn't done much in this building and its losing ways continued with Thursday's 2-1 loss to the host Wild.
The Panthers have won just one of eight games played here since the Wild's expansion season in 2000 and are one of two teams to never get a regulation win in the building.
Minnesota has won seven of eight as Florida's four-game point streak came to an end. The Panthers went 0-2 against the Wild this season.
"It's fun to play in front of your friends and family so that's pretty cool,'' said Nick Bjugstad, a Minneapolis native who scored a goal in Minnesota for the first time since his days with the Gophers in the second period.
"It's fun playing in this building but it's better with a win. It's a tough building to play in; Minnesota fans are passionate. They're into it. It's a good atmosphere for them.''
As for Luongo, the Xcel Center has been such a tough place to play for him the Canucks decided to just stop playing him here despite their many visits to the 'State of Hockey.'
Thursday's start was Luongo's first since 2010 after Vancouver pulled him in three of his final four starts with the Canucks in the building.
"I don't think about that stuff, more gets made out of it by the media,'' Luongo said. "I don't particularly care about the past. It's a rink, same as any other. This was a close game. I would have liked to tie it up, but we weren't able to.''
Thursday, Luongo (21 saves) didn't get much help on Minnesota's first goal as Jason Pominville deflected a puck off his skate and Zach Parise got his by shoving Dmitry Kulikov out of the way in front of the net before banging a loose puck through.
The Panthers got back in the game when Bjugstad, the hometown boy, charged up the right side of the ice and threw a shot up at Devan Dubnyk (26 saves).
The puck caught the top of the cage and went past Dubnyk's shoulder to cut Florida's deficit in half.
"You have to just fire away,'' Bjugstad said. "They're a good team, play well defensively. We could have come out with a better effort.''
Florida had plenty of opportunities after Bjugstad's goal and didn't cash in on a four-minute power play (which was cut in half when Aleksander Barkov took a penalty of his own) as well as a late gift penalty when Kulikov fell on his own.
Despite having six skaters to Minnesota's four in the final moments, Florida couldn't connect and failed to pick up two points on the idle Bruins.
The Panthers remain four points back of Boston for the final playoff spot in the East.
"We could have applied a little more pressure in some areas,'' Brian Campbell said. "We did some good things, but good things don't get you points. We need points right now.''
PIRRI OUT
Neither Brandon Pirri nor Willie Mitchell flew with the team for this short road trip.
Pirri hurt his shoulder during his opening shift in Tuesday's win over Anaheim with coach Gerard Gallant saying he's out at least two weeks.
The timing of Pirri's injury couldn't have been worse as he's been on an offensive tear with six goals in the previous eight games. Before suffering a concussion on Oct. 30, Pirri had goals in three straight games.
"He's proven he can play and deserves his ice time,'' Gallant said. "He's been taking advantage of his opportunities.''
Mitchell has missed the past four games with an undisclosed injury but could be back next week.
-- Bjugstad was the most sought-after player at Thursday's morning skate as the Minneapolis native spent more than 20 minutes fulfilling various media requests.
Bjugstad's family and friends bought 160 tickets for Thursday's game. It was apparent he was happy to be back -- and proud of his currently frigid hometown.
"One of the guys said I should grab the mic on the bus,'' Bjugstad said.
"I was giving them a little tour, pointing out the new Vikings stadium, the [Gophers] stadium. I really get excited to come back and give the guys advice, where to go eat and stuff. I just love coming back here. It's a great place."
Friday: Panthers at Stars
When, where: 8:30 p.m.; American Airlines Center, Dallas
TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560
Series: Florida leads 13-11-3
Noteworthy: This is the first meeting of the season between the two with the Panthers winning the past three -- including both games last year.

 

February 10, 2015

DUCKS ON A POND: Panthers top Anaheim by 6-2 score for second time this season ... Six players score in rout ... Gallant doesn't think Pirri's shoulder injury too serious

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
There were many who figured the Panthers' four-goal win earlier this season in Anaheim -- one of the top teams in the NHL -- was a tad on the fluky side.
Perhaps they just like playing the Ducks.
Tuesday, Florida brought more of the same against their 1993 expansion cousin, dropping Anaheim by a 6-2 score for the second time in the past few months.
The Panthers won by the same exact score in Anaheim on Nov. 16.
"That's a fun game to be a part of, everyone was scoring and making plays,'' Nick Bjugstad said.
"I don't think we expected that kind of game again. I guess we matchup pretty well against them. It worked out tonight.''
The Panthers jumped to a 3-0 lead early in the second and went into the third up three at 5-2. Florida's goal scorers on Tuesday: Dmitry Kulikov, Bjugstad, Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Dave Bolland and Jimmy Hayes.
Jonathan Huberdeau was named top star of the game with three assists.
"That's our team and we need that to be successful,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "I thought everyone played real well, real hard.''
The Panthers needed a win not only to pick up ground in the playoff race but because they are about to embark on a really tough stretch.
In the coming weeks, Florida plays seven games in 11 days -- six coming on the road.
As for the scoreboard watch, well, with three wins in the past four, Florida is within four points of Boston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"This is huge,'' Ekblad said. "Obviously we need as many points as we can to get back in the race. We're right there behind Boston but it hurt to give up one point against Nashville. Still, five of six against these teams [Kings, Predators and Ducks] is something you'll take most days.''
Florida opened the scoring on a long slapshot from Kulikov 5:31 in before Bjugstad made it 2-0 with his second goal in three games.
Ekblad scored early in the third before the Panthers gave the Ducks a golden opportunity. Both Steven Kampfer and Bjugstad were called for penalties at the same time, giving the Ducks a 5-on-3 advantage for an entire two minute stint.
As expected, Anaheim cashed in as Kyle Palmieri scored.
The Panthers didn't let that goal deter them, however, as Barkov and Bolland scored within a span of 22 seconds to make it 5-1.
Anaheim pulled goalie Ilya Bryzgalov when it was 3-0 and the veteran couldn't bear to watch as he sat on the bench refusing to pull off his mask.
There sure wasn't much to see -- at least from the Ducks' perspective. Anaheim, which has the secon-most points in the league behind Nashville, has lost three straight.
"This was a big night for us, big two points,'' Hayes said. "It's nice to play with the lead. We had a lot of confidence in our team.''
PIRRI HURT
Winger Brandon Pirri injured his shoulder after being hurt 17 seconds into the game when he and Ryan Getzlaf collided at center ice on the opening shift.
Gallant said he didn't think it was anything too serious.
-- Shawn Thornton was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past three. He promptly got into a fight with Anaheim's Tim Jackman on just his second shift.
Sean Bergenheim, who also missed the previous three games, was back as well. Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky sat out.
-- Tomas Fleischmann recorded his 300th NHL point with the primary assist on Bolland's goal.

 

 

February 08, 2015

SMOKY MOUNTAIN SNUFFED: Nashville scores twice in third, top Panthers 3-2 in shootout

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
Holding a two-goal lead in Sunday's third period, the Panthers appeared poised to take two big points in the standings with a third straight win.
Nashville, however, scored a pair power play goals in the final period to force overtime then took the second point as well in a 3-2 shootout victory at BB&T Center.
"We needed two and that's the part that hurts,'' defenseman Erik Gudbranson said.
"I can't sit here and say we played well and are happy with one point. We need two. This time of the year you have to find a way to win those.''
The Panthers took a 2-0 lead into the third after scoring twice in the second period.
Tomas Fleischmann got Florida on the board with a great play as he intercepted a loose puck in the Nashville zone and zipped a shot past backup Carter Hutton midway through the second.
"We let that second point slip away,'' Fleischmann said. "And that's not good.''
Six minutes later, 19-year-old Aaron Ekblad scored Florida's second goal by pouncing on a loose puck left by Jimmy Hayes' attempted wraparound.
With the Predators looking like a team which played the day before -- in Tennessee, no less -- it appeared Florida was in complete control.
Only Nashville took advantage of its two power play chances in the third and scored twice on just four shots on goal in the entire period.
Florida general manager Dale Tallon was incensed at the officiating crew afterward as he felt his team didn't get the calls the visitors did.
Most egregious, perhaps, was Gudbranson taking the butt-end of Mike Fisher's stick into his lower regions at the end of the third. Yet there was no spearing call -- or any type of call against the Preds.
"The officials were good, there were no issues there at all,'' coach Gerard Gallant said. "We didn't play well enough in the [third]. I thought we were real good in the first two. We weren't bad in the third, but we gave them two scoring chances and they scored on both of them. They were Grade-A chances.''
In the shootout, the Predators scored on their first two shots but Roberto Luongo stopped the third to force an extra round.
There, Dave Bolland -- one who kept Florida's 20-round shootout against Washington -- was stopped and Filip Forsberg scored to finish it.
"It's disappointing for myself because I wasn't very good in the third or in the shootout,'' said Luongo, who stopped 23 of 25 shots but just one of four in the shootout.
"The boys deserve two points and I couldn't give it to them.''
-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman attended Sunday's game and watched from the owner's box.
-- Sunday was a showdown of top rookies Forsberg and Ekblad. Forsberg took first star of the game honors after scoring the game-tying goal with 4:43left before getting the shootout-winner.
Ekblad was second star of the game after scoring his eighth goal of the season.

 

WEDDING CATS: Florida Panthers season ticket holders exchange vows before Predators game

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards
As is the case every weekend, there were plenty of weddings around South Florida on Sunday.
Only one, however, took place near a sheet of ice.
Around 2:20 p.m., in Section 116 of the BB&T Center just two rows from ice level, David Ortiz and Judy Chance tied the knot in front of family in friends. Minutes later, their beloved Florida Panthers took the ice for warmups, the confetti Chance snuck in still all covering the surrounding seats and flooring.
"This is my favorite place and all the people that I love and hold dear are right here,'' said Chance, a Panthers' season ticket holder since the team's days at Miami Arena.
"This is the perfect setting for me. I couldn't ask for a better place to be married. ''
Minutes after marrying his girlfriend of 14 years, Ortiz bounded up the stairs to celebrate with a drink.
Of Tim Hortons' coffee, that is.
"I just got married,'' Ortiz told those around him. "I mean, I just got married!"
Jimmy Phillips, a season ticket holder who sits behind Chance and Ortiz, officiated the brief ceremony.
According to Chance, friends and family were all asked to adhere to the strict dress code.
"Panthers jerseys are a must,'' Chance said. "That's all we asked for."
Said Ortiz: "When she thought this up, I was 100 percent behind it. Actually, 110 percent. I'm from New York and supported the Rangers and Islanders. She converted me to the Panthers. I haven't worn another jersey but this one in 14 years.''