Saturday, September 24, 2011

On Frozen Pond's take on the game

From On Frozen Pond (The Miami Herald's Panthers blog by George Richards)

Tampa Bay Lightning Score Late and Score Often, Beat Panthers 5-3
They may not have been wearing their new red jerseys, but the new-look Florida Panthers were, for the most part, finally on the ice together under game conditions on Saturday night.

The Panthers, who are saving their new duds for the Oct. 15 home opener, played most of their expected starters in the fourth exhibition game of the preseason.

Despite playing against a watered-down Tampa Bay team, the Panthers gave up three goals in the third period and lost 5-3 at BankAtlantic Center.

With the score tied 3-3, Tampa Bay scored twice within a span of nine seconds to put the game away with just over five minutes remaining.

“We had half a dozen bodies in which that was their first game,'' first-year coach Kevin Dineen said. “I'm not big on making excuses, but fatigue played a factor. We also had a little chemistry issues. When things got frantic, we failed to settle down and right things.''

Making their preseason debut for the Panthers: Goalie Jose Theodore, defenseman Ed Jovanovski, winger Kris Versteeg, center Stephen Weiss, winger Tomas Fleischmann and winger Tomas Kopecky.

The Lightning had emerging superstar Steven Stamkos in the lineup for the second straight night (the Lightning beat Florida's 'B-squad' 5-2 in Tampa on Friday) but that was about it.

For Jovanovski, it was his first game at the Sunrise representing the Panthers since Florida beat the visiting Islanders 1-0 on January 16, 1999. Jovanovski was traded to Vancouver the following day as part of the blockbuster Pavel Bure deal.

“It was good, good to get into a game,'' said Jovanovski, whom Florida made the first pick of the 1994 draft.

Theodore, who hadn't taken a shot under a game situation since April 10 as a member of the Minnesota Wild, gave up a quick goal to Pavel Kubina 1:29 into the game. Kubina whipped off a shot from 25 feet away, the puck getting under Theodore's arm for a 1-0 Lightning lead. Weiss was in the penalty box for goalie interference just 32 seconds in.

Although he seemed to settle in, the third period was not good for Theodore as Tom Pyatt, Mattias Ritola and Teddy Purcell all scored. Purcell's goal, which came moments after Ritola gave Tampa Bay the lead, clipped Theodore in the helmet and bounced into the net.

Theodore, who signed a two-year deal with the Panthers worth $3 million on July 1, gave up three goals on 12 third period shots.

Florida is 1-3 this preseason with two games against Dallas remaining.

“I thought he played some pretty good hockey,'' Dineen said of Theodore, who enters his 15th NHL season after stints with Montreal, Colorado, Washington and Minnesota.

“He didn't have a shot at a few of those. There were some coverage issues as we went down the stretch. He's not happy when he gives up five goals, but for the first time playing in five months, it was OK.''

The Panthers got two quick goals in the second, with Versteeg and Kopecky scoring less than a minute apart to give Florida a 3-1 lead early in the period. Tampa Bay came back, scoring on a 5-on-3 opportunity when Brett Connolly camped out in front of the net and took a nice feed from Ryan Shannon for the easy goal midway through the period.

Tampa Bay failed to tie the score later in the period when Carter Ashton's penalty shot hit the crossbar. Rookie Erik Gudbranson, who was cooling his heels in the penalty box with Jovanovski during the Lightning's 5-on-3 chance, was called for tripping Ashton on the breakaway.

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