After handicapping themselves during the first two periods of play by committing six penalties — two of which led to power play goals for the Coyotes — the Florida Panthers pulled themselves together in the third period and mounted a late attempt at a comeback. They outshot the Coyotes 12-6 over the period, and only committed one minor penalty to Phoenix’s two.
With 15 minutes to go in the game, Coyote goalie Mike Smith went down like a brick after making a save on a routine shot. Nobody hit him on the play, but it appeared in the replay that he pulled a groin muscle. He was forced to leave the game, so backup Jason LaBarbera took over in net. This seemed like a golden opportunity for the Cats to tie the game, but LaBarbera was perfect for the rest of the game, saving all eight shots on net.
The clock continued to trick down, and although the Panthers were putting considerable offensive pressure on the Coyotes, they couldn’t sneak another goal in. And then, during the final minute of play, the Panthers were given a golden opportunity to tie the game. Two Coyote defenders dislodged the net with 30 seconds remaining in the game, giving the Cats a penalty shot. Coach Kevin Dineen chose Stephen Weiss to take the shot, and he nearly snuck the puck through LaBarbera’s legs. The puck slipped through his legs, but it had lost so much momentum that it stopped precisely on the goal line. The Panthers tried valiantly to make something happen in the final 30 seconds, but that was that.
The Panthers still retain first place in the Southeast Division, although this is the first time in 10 days that they have not added at least one point in the standings. This game was also the 13th home game in a row for the Panthers that was decided by only one goal, dating back to October 31st.
For more on this game, head over the SB Nation’s blog on the Panthers, Litter Box Cats.