Senators melt down in Florida
Bruce Garrioch, QMI Agency
|Florida Panthers' Mikael Samuelsson (L) scores against Ottawa Senators' goalie Robin Lehner (R) during their game in Sunrise, Florida on March 4, 2012. (REUTERS/Rhona Wise)
SUNRISE, FLA. - Instead of napping by the pool in the Sunshine State, the Senators fell asleep at the BankAtlantic Center Sunday night.
Trying to win their 10th straight against the Panthers, in what could be a first-round playoff preview, the Senators dozed off long enough to give up four unanswered goals in a 4-2 loss.
The Senators’ nine-game winning streak vs. the Panthers — that dated back to March 31, 2009 — came to an end as Ottawa dropped its second straight after squandering a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Robin Lehner, making his fourth straight start with Craig Anderson hurt, didn’t get much offensive help as only Chris Neil and Jared Cowen beat Florida goalie Jose Theodore.
Jack Skille, Mikael Samuelsson, Krys Barch and Marcel Goc scored for the Panthers.
The Senators pressed to tie it up in the third period, but had only five shots in the frame in what turned out to be an easy night for Theodore.
For the first time since being recalled, Lehner looked a mere mortal. He had been a human highlight reel in his three previous outings, but he didn’t get much support in front of him.
Lehner said it was a tough night.
“It was frustrating. After the first, I thought we looked really good. I don’t know what happened in the second,” said Lehner. “Our whole team kind of collapsed a little bit and they came out very hungry.
“Their first goal was a fluke. It was very lucky. The second goal I feel like I’ve got to have. That’s one of the best parts of my game. I was with him and for some reason I lost my balance. I’ve got to have that goal.
“Then, we had to face some adversity, we got some penalties and things didn’t go our way.”
Those penalties didn’t sit well with coach Paul MacLean, particularly the ones taken out of frustration by Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza.
“Our competition after the first period stayed the same and theirs elevated,” said MacLean. “They took over the game. That led to us being frustrated instead of trying to raise our competition to (match theirs) as the game went on.
“We got frustrated and took selfish penalties that took us out of the game that led to even more frustration and lack of execution. As a result, we don’t get (the benefit) of what was a really good first period.”
Ahead 2-0 after the first, the Senators looked like they were sitting pretty for another easy victory. Then, the Panthers decided they were going to have something to say about while Ottawa players looked like they were bored.
A double high-sticking minor to Neil for cutting Florida defenceman Ed Jovanovski’s face turned out to be costly as Samuelsson capitalized on the ensuing power play.
That gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead and plenty of momentum.
Before Neil’s penalty, the Senators had mustered few chances in the second.
The Panthers erased the Ottawa lead in a span of 2:21 of the second with goals from Barch and Goc.
Barch tied it at 2:54 on a breakaway as he held onto the puck and threw it high over top of a sprawling Lehner. He didn’t have much of a chance as Goc tipped a shot by Mike Weaver home from the point only 33 seconds into the second.
The first period wasn’t pretty, but it looked pretty good to the Senators, who were up 2-0.
The Panthers looked like they were going to escape the first period down only 1-0, but Neil extended Ottawa’s lead at 18:32 after he picked up a loose puck following a strong effort by Jim O’Brien to beat Theodore on the blocker side.
Cowen opened the scoring with his fifth of the season — his first goal since Dec. 16 against Pittsburgh to end a 33-game slump.