Panthers

Florida Panthers’ losing record can be traced to power-play failures

 
WEB VOTE Which South Florida sports team are you most interested in at the moment?

Tuesday: Penguins at Panthers

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center.

TV/radio: FSNF; WQAM 560.

The series: Pittsburgh leads 39-31-4.

The game: The Penguins have won five of the past six — including a 3-1 win over the visiting Panthers last Friday. Pittsburgh won 5-3 in Tampa on Sunday. Pittsburgh has won at least once in Sunrise every season since 2005-06.


grichards@MiamiHerald.com

In the Panthers’ rousing opening-night victory over Carolina, the team took advantage of one power-play chance after another and rolled to a 5-1 win.

That kind of power-play success has happened only one time since as there has been a direct correlation to Florida scoring power-play goals and winning games.

Although there are plenty of reasons why the Panthers are losing, none is more telling than this: When the Panthers score power-play goals, they win. When they don’t, well, the standings tell that story.

Florida goes into Tuesday’s home game against Pittsburgh with five victories. The Panthers have nine of their 11 power-play goals in those games. In victories, Florida is 9 for 20 (45 percent success rate) with the advantage.

In the Panthers’ 13 losses, they have gone a staggering 2 for 48 (4 percent) despite having an extra skater on the ice.

That is a huge gap and a big reason the Panthers are struggling.

“When you are out there on the power play, you’re out there for one reason and that’s to score goals,” Peter Mueller said after Florida went 0 for 4 in a 4-1 loss Sunday to the Bruins.

“We’ve been practicing and doing things right. We should be licking our chops every time we get out there. It’s a great opportunity to put a goal in the back of the net. Power plays win games. We haven’t found that success yet.”

The Panthers have lost seven of their past eight games with one power-play goal in 24 chances during that streak. That goal snapped an 0-for-15 slide and helped Florida beat Philadelphia on Thursday.

Florida is 0 for 17 in this current five-game home winless streak.

“Our power play sucked the life out of us,” coach Kevin Dineen said after last week’s loss to Toronto. “We need our special teams to give us a boost and not go oh-fer on one side, then giving up a big goal on the other.”

Last year, the Panthers’ power play ranked seventh in the league (18.5 percent success rate) as Florida’s top line of Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann had 19 of their 70 combined goals while with the man advantage.

This year tells a much different tale.

Part of the reason for the power-play decline has been the loss of three key players — and a fourth who hasn’t played much.

Defenseman Jason Garrison scored a team-high nine power-play goals last season but left as a free agent as did Mikael Samuelsson (six power-play goals). Sean Bergenheim, who had five such goals last season, has missed the entire season after being injured during the lockout.

Versteeg led Florida’s top line with eight power-play goals last year, but he has been injured for much of the season and has played in only seven games. His lone goal came on a power play in the win against Winnipeg.

Weiss has one goal this season — and it came on the power play in one of the Philadelphia wins on Feb. 7. One of Fleischmann’s four goals was on the power play.

Florida’s power-play success rate of 16.2 percent was tied for 21st in the league coming into Monday’s games. The Panthers have scored 11 power-play goals all season — with six coming in Florida’s only home wins against Carolina and Winnipeg.

“It’s do or die now. In such a short season, it’s time to stop messing around,” forward Shawn Matthias said. “We have to be better in all aspects of the game. Special teams is a big part of that. We have to take advantage of teams when they are down.’’

• The Panthers are back to having just two goalies as Jacob Markstrom was sent back to AHL San Antonio. Markstrom stopped 65 of 71 shots in giving up a total of six goals in losses to Pittsburgh and Boston. Florida scored one goal in support of Markstrom in each of those games.

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