Friday, December 19, 2014

Panthers send Flyers to holiday road trip with SO loss

Philadelphia, PA -- Dave Bolland was the latest player who helped keep the Philadelphia Flyers' shootout woes intact, as his marker to start the sixth round of the game's final segment proved to be the decider in the Florida Panthers' 2-1 victory on Thursday night.

Brandon Pirri began the breakaway competition by essentially lulling Steve Mason to sleep before sticking a shot home, and Jakub Voracek managed to keep the hosts in it with a pretty backhand score to complete the third round.

Although Florida hit two posts which could have ended up making the difference, Roberto Luongo stopped a relatively harmless chance by Sean Couturier to end the contest.

"I wasn't able to shut the door on Voracek, but the second time around you really want to hunker down and make the save for the boys.… We just want to keep it going. These points before Christmas are huge for our club. We got two more big games left," Luongo noted.

Thus, the Orange and Black completed their homestand at 2-1-1, and the Panthers won the season series 2-1-0.

Philadelphia faces an eight-game, 16-day trip which begins in Toronto on Saturday and doesn't end until Jan. 3 in New Jersey. The club's next home date is three days later against the Ottawa Senators, and there are still questions why the team cannot find its motivation 31 games in.

"There were some good things and bad things. We've just got to up the intensity. I have no idea (why it happens) ... I honestly don't," Mason said, exhaling deeply. He's given up three goals in the last two games and the Flyers have rewarded him with three goals and managed to take one point.

"Guys have to step up. It can't just be a couple guys to provide the spark, it's got to be everybody."

Story of the whole mess of a season, right there.

Mason stopped 31 shots, and his club was only able to reach overtime thanks to a spectacular diving glove save at the left post on Pirri after Scott Laughton decided it would be prudent to carry the puck and try to deke past a Florida forechecker shortly after the midway point of the third period. 

Once there, the home team showed the hunger necessary to win, but which had been lacking for most of regulation. Luongo made a nice glove stop on Mark Streit with 1:32 left and swallowed up a Matt Read slap shot with 41.2 seconds left. He also made a nice glove stop on an Andrew MacDonald shot off a 4-on-2 Flyers rush with 11.4 showing. MacDonald is still one point away from 100 for his career.

Florida didn't show any ill effects from participating in an epic, NHL record 20-round shootout on Tuesday. The hosts caught a break early in the game, when a deflection from Sean Bergenheim that fooled Mason and beat him to the right post was shown upon review to have been tipped out of the air and well above the crossbar.

They weren't so lucky at the 9:37 mark, when Scottie Upshall drove the net and outmuscled Nick Schultz so that a Tomas Kopecky centering feed caromed off his body and into the net. Luongo was barely tested for his eight-save opening 20 minutes, which his club led at one point on the shot board by a 12-4 count.

"We feel like we're in every game. It'd be nice to win some by a few more goals but we're getting better with one-goal games,'' Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said. "Not as much panic, we're getting used to it. That's making strides and is good to see.''

Both sides continued to largely sleepwalk their way through the early part of the second period before Jakub Voracek -- one of those few guys Mason hinted were the team's spark-producers -- scored to tie the game.

Most of the credit and work goes to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who initially controlled the puck along the right wing, then briefly lost it as he curled to face the rest of the ice behind Luongo. He regained possession and found Voracek in his usual position in the right circle to convert his 12th goal of the season.

It was also his 38th point of the year, pulling him into a tie atop the NHL scoring column with Tyler Seguin and Evgeni Malkin.

"That's something we definitely have to work on, we're definitely not intense enough and tonight we came out and the first period was not intense again," Bellemare said. "We have to figure out a way to be like this all the time, when we're like that (in the second period), we play well."

Notes: Thursday marked the 10th one-goal game for the Panthers in their past 11 outings, and their 22nd in 30 games this season (12-2-8) ... Florida improved to 4-4 in shootouts, while Philadelphia fell to 0-5 this season and has dropped 10 in a row since a win at Vancouver on Dec. 30, 2013 ... Vinny Lecavalier made his return to the lineup after a seven-game absence due to being a healthy scratch and a lower-body injury, playing 11:08 and going shotless with a minus-1 rating ... Pirri was inserted into the lineup after Brad Boyes was a late scratch due to an apparent back issue ... The win was the 385th of Luongo's career, tying him with Mike Vernon for 12th on the all-time list.

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