Florida Panthers

Shootouts still a curse for Florida Panthers

The Panthers have been the league’s worst team since the shootout was introduced in 2005 to determine a winner in games with the scored tied after overtime. The past two weeks has been one of Florida’s toughest runs yet.

The Panthers are currently winless in its past five games although it has points from three.

Those points came from shootout losses with Chicago, Tampa Bay and Washington all gaining the extra point as Florida was left with the loser’s singular point — as historically has been the case.

The Panthers have played in the fifth-most shootout games all-time (93) yet only five teams have fewer wins (34) and no team has more losses (59). Columbus, ranked 29th in the league, has nine fewer losses than the dead-last Panthers.

Florida’s goalies have a shootout success save rate of 64 percent, which is ranked 24th; Florida’s shooting rate of 25 percent is last.

“I’m still confident in the options I have in the shootout,’’ said coach Kevin Dineen, whose team is 1-3 in shootouts this season, all coming in the past six games.

"This is an area we’re going to see a lot of this year. We’re going to have games like this because no goals seem to come easy for us. Hopefully that pops open for us, but the shootout will probably be a big part of our season.’’

The problems in the past three shootout losses are the same as those throughout the past decade. They are obvious problems. The Panthers don’t score enough and don’t stop the opposition enough.

In the Panthers 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota on Oct. 19, Florida was perfect. Not only did both Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes both score, but Tim Thomas stopped both offerings from the Wild.

Of course, Thomas is one of the better shootout goalies in the league. Thomas’ 31 wins (three fewer than the Panthers have total) rank eighth among active netminders as he has gone 31-27.

In the three games without Thomas, Florida has stopped just three of 10 shootout attempts while scoring on two of seven.

On Saturday, Scott Clemmensen gave up goals on all three shots faced — including one from Brooks Laich in which he whiffed on the shot yet the puck slid between Clemmensen’s skates — with only Aleksander Barkov scoring for the Panthers.

Dineen said that as the backup goalie, Clemmensen is at a disadvantage because he’s usually the guy used as target practice for Florida’s shooters.

“He gets a bucket-load of shots thrown at him, and it’s more practice for the shooters than for his own improvement,’’ Dineen said. “Sometimes that’s not fair.’’

Goalie Jacob Markstrom said he’s always prepared for individual shooters and enjoys the challenge of trying to get the extra point for his team.

“I think it’s fun because it comes down to you vs. the skater,’’ said Markstrom, who is 0-2 after stopping three of seven this year. “These are the best players in the world, and they have the best moves. But it’s tough losing them.’’

Close call

Florida may have avoided a shootout Saturday as Tomas Kopecky was robbed of a point-blank shot moments after Tomas Fleischmann tied the score at 2 late in the third period. Dineen said the play was reviewed and determined the puck didn’t go over the line.

Kopecky, still without a goal this season, put his head in his hands after getting back to the bench in frustration.

"He had a heck of a chance at the end,’’ Dineen said. “I would have liked to see that puck go in, find a way into the net.’’

Getting physical

How complete was Florida’s effort Saturday?

Shawn Matthias left the game after taking a puck to the face while trying to block a shot, Brad Gilbert leaped in front of a shot late in the game and took the puck off his ankle and Marcel Goc got into his first NHL fight in his 502nd game.

Matthias returned to the game but visited a doctor after the game. He was struck near one of his eyes. Gilbert was seen limping around with a huge bag of ice on his swollen ankle.

Krys Barch also took a big hit and was upended, leaving him with numerous facial lacerations. Barch, while in the penalty box, yanked out a loose tooth and then offered it to a fan who watched in amazement.

Trocheck shining

If Florida is looking for internal improvement, rookie forward Vincent Trocheck has to be at the top of the list. Trocheck had two assists in San Antonio’s 5-3 win over Rick DiPietro and the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday night.

Trocheck, who led the Ontario Hockey League with 50 goals last season, leads Florida’s AHL affiliate in scoring with six goals and five assists, and has seven points and three goals in the past three games.