The game was highlighted by strong defensive play from both teams. Much of the night was spent mucking through the neutral zone, fighting for loose pucks along the boards, and skating from end to end after numerous icings. The Panthers struck first, on the power play of all things. A 5-on-3 power play, true, but a special teams goal, none the less. With Rostislaz Olesz screening the Ottawa netminder, Ballard picked his spot and let loose a twisted wrister to the far post.
Much of the 2nd period was spent in between the blue lines. Only 2 real chances for both teams. Nathan Horton clanked the iron with a quick wrist shot, and a bad turnover behind the net by Nick Boynton led to a theft by Tomas Vokoun.
The 3rd period belonged to the Ottawa Senators. They were able to tie the game on the power play, after a somewhat confusing delay of game call on Cory Stillman. In any case, Dany Heatley took the opportunity, came out from the corner, and snapped off a wicked shot, beating Vokoun to the short side. Then, the inevitable happened. After Vokoun stopped a wrap around attempt, a scrum ensued, and sure enough, there was Chris Kelly to score his first goal of the year while the Panthers looked on. You could have fit all 6 Panthers into a 5 foot circle, yet Kelly wandered through the crowd untouched to poke home the loose puck before Vokoun could cover it. A last second chance for the Panthers went by the wayside when Cory Stillman's stick snapped on a one timer after a great effort by the Cats to set up the 6 on 5 with Vokoun out of the net.
- Just like their first meeting with Ottawa, the Panthers started strong, and faded late. Although they weren't outshot 26-3 in the final period, they were outplayed and outchanced.
- The most threating Panthers are the defensemen. Keith Ballard is tied for the team lead in points, and Jay Bouwmeester appears to be one of the more confident skaters with the puck. We knew goals would be hard to come by this year, but the forwards are going to have to pick up the pace if we hope to make a playoff run. Horton, I'm talking to you!
- Not to completely deflate our offense, there were a couple bright spots. Radek Dvorak and David Booth continue to grind. Both players tonight were aggresive on the forecheck and fearless in the corners. They both only officialy accounted for 1 shot on goal each, the effort was there.
- There were also low lights. Nathan Horton continues to lack the goal scorers mentality. One play that stuck out; after a strong fore check from Olesz created a turnover, Horton and Stillman joined Olesz on a 3 on 2. Horton dished to Stillman, then meandered his way to the net as Stillman took the shot. You have to crash the net, take a defender with you, do something to create an opportunity. That's just one play, I know, but it's the mindset.
- Shawn Matthias' 2008 debut was uneventful. He had one fleeting chance, but his shot missed horribly. Michael Frolik has yet to register a point through his 6 games played.