The first two minutes in Peter Horachek’s tenure as Panthers coach were pretty tumultuous Saturday afternoon in Ottawa. Things calmed down quite considerably after that, though.
In his NHL coaching debut, Horachek saw his Panthers stumble early in their game against the Ottawa Senators, falling behind 2-0 before the contest was barely two minutes old.
Two minutes later, Nick Bjugstad scored for the Panthers. But even though there was plenty of time remaining, too much damage had been inflicted, and the Panthers dropped their eighth consecutive game, losing 3-2.
“You put yourself behind the eight-ball in the first couple of minutes of the game, you’re down 2-0 on unforced errors, so we did it to ourselves. Maybe the guys were a little bit nervous or something, I don’t know, but that was kind of a tough situation to fight back [from]. But I think there were moments of effort that were good, and then we just certainly can’t put ourselves in that situation,” Horachek said afterward.
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“You’ve got to have a response, and you’ve got to get back in the game. If it stays 2-0 for a long period of time, [it is] going to be tough, so getting a goal back like that, putting it close, that certainly makes a big difference and puts us in a frame of mind that you can continue to push.”
Kyle Turris, Mika Zibanejad and Clarke MacArthur scored for the Senators (7-6-4), allowing them to climb over the .500 mark for the first time since the first game of the season. Other than Bjugstad, Marcel Goc was the only one able to beat Robin Lehner in the Ottawa goal, as he made 26 saves.
Tim Thomas made his first start after missing the previous six games with a lower-body injury and made 28 saves for the Panthers (3-10-4).
“The game started out a little scrambly, and I felt a little out of sorts at the beginning and kind of wasn’t awake for that first goal. I wasn’t expecting a shot to come from that angle, and I had to get back into game-type of thinking rather than practice, but I feel like I played better as the game went on,” Thomas said.
“We’re in a situation here where we don’t expect miracles to happen overnight, but we want to start turning the ship in the right direction, and I think there’s a lot of positives to take out of that game to show we’re headed in that direction.”
The Senators scored during a five-on-three power play in the second period, but the Panthers, when presented with their own two-man advantage for more than a minute in the third, were unable to capitalize. They went 0 for 5 on the power play overall, while the Senators were 1 for 3.
“Every part of the game on the power play needs to improve, so that’s something we’re clearly going to have to work on,” Horachek said.
Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson, a native of Ottawa, thought the team played better as a whole Saturday.
“We played towards our new system, and we really created chances and we played aggressive hockey. We’ve got to build on that. It’s a little step forward, [but] we’re still disappointed to lose,” Gudbranson said. “We had good chances in the third, but we didn’t bury them. We’re going to have to work on that in the coming days.”
The new coach and his players will get a second crack at ending the slide quickly as they are at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night to take on the New York Rangers.