By Bill Whitehead
SUNRISE – Florida Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek was looking for answers following the club’s 3-1 loss to Detroit on Thursday night at the BB&T Center.
Two shots in the first period. Just six more in the second. Lackluster effort for roughly 55 minutes before that frantic few moments of desperation with a 6-on-4 advantage after Detroit’s Brian Lashoff committed a cross-checking penalty with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.
And how does this happen after such a dominating performance in a 48-shot, 4-1 win over Toronto two nights earlier? How do the Cats not at least come close to giving even half that effort in the final home game before the Olympic break?
“I guess it’s the same as every team that has difficulties doing it. It’s a lot of games, and it’s hard for them to play at that pace, I guess. I wish I knew,” said Horachek.
“They outworked us. It’s as simple as that. It’s disappointing. We want to play a whole game, but it just wasn’t there.”
Scottie Upshall, just out of the penalty box and behind the Detroit defense, provided the lone offensive highlight when he batted down a long, aerial pass from Tomas Kopecky as the first period was about to end. Uppy possessed the puck, skated in on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard and beat him 5-hole for a 1-0 lead.
One goal on two shots in the first period.
“It’s happened against us before. I’ve seen it before many times,” Horachek said of the Panthers (22-28-7) scoring on one of two shots. “I’ve seen some strange things where you dominate and they get one shot on one play. The last time Detroit was in this building I think we had nine or 10 shots and many chances, and they scored on their first chance with about three minutes to go in the first period.”
It’s often said that athletes don’t pay attention to the numbers, but defensemen Ed Jovanovski and Mike Weaver were aware of the worst number and mentioned it in their post-game interviews – eight Florida shots over the first 40 minutes.
“Detroit’s a pretty defensive (-minded) team. Obviously they have an offensive side to them, but we need shots. You’re not going to score in this league if you’re not getting a lot of shots, and we had eight shots in two periods…you can’t do that. We’ve got to create more from the point in throwing shots to the net and getting traffic. It’s simple,” said Weaver.
Simple? Maybe. However, Horachek’s having a hard time finding a reason for the lack of effort after such a spectacular one against the Maple Leafs.
And the Cats are running out of time.