SUNRISE, FLA. – On a night full of gaffes galore, Mike Condon’s late-game mistake made all the difference in the Florida Panthers 6-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
The Senators goaltender turned a routine play into Jonathan Marchessault’s goal which broke a 4-4 tie with 6:03 remaining.
Condon lost control of the puck while attempting to stickhandle around his net, accidentally putting the puck directly on Marchessault’s stick.
“I don’t know, I haven’t looked at (the replay) yet,” said Condon, when asked if the puck bounced on him. “I just tried to make a quick play on it with the forechecker coming in. I don’t know if it came off my blade wrong or if I wasn’t strong enough on the forehand.”
Marchessault said “the puck was rolling on him a little bit and I just got lucky.”
Jason Demers scored into an empty net in the final minute to make it 6-4, a goal which turned out to be necessary when Derick Brassard pulled the Senators back within one goal again with only 11 seconds left.
In one sense, it was a fitting end to an altogether sloppy game.
But the Senators should never, ever, have allowed themselves to be in that position, having led 4-2 early in the second period.
“It was ugly, it was just really sloppy,” said Senators centre Kyle Turris. “We were real sloppy defensively and that’s kind of our bread and butter.”
Ryan Dzingel scored twice for the Senators, with Chris Wideman and Erik Karlsson also finding the range. It was Karlsson’s first goal since Dec. 7, breaking a 20-game goalless drought.
Condon, appearing in his franchise-tying 25th consecutive game –- and making his 16th straight start — faced 34 shots.
Michael Matheson, with two, Mark Pysyk and Colton Sceviour also scored for the Panthers.
Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo made 36 saves.
Both teams suffered from the same post all-star break disease that was hitting teams all around the NHL.
There were mistakes everywhere. Odd man rushes left and right. Penalty after penalty. Shaky goaltending. And a fair amount of chippiness for good measure, with the teams exchanging hacks and whacks throughout.
The Senators were in position to take control after Karlsson beat Luongo early in the second period, putting them up 4-2.
But on the ensuing shift, the Senators fell asleep. Only 17 seconds after Karlsson’s goal, Sceviour beat Bobby Ryan to a loose puck in the slot following a loud bounce off the back boards to make it 4-3.
Matheson then tied it 4-4 midway through the second, beating Condon with a slapshot that dipped in front of the Senators goaltender.
It was a great night for scoring from the blueline. Four of the opening eight goals came from defencemen.
Wideman gave the Senators a 3-2 lead in the final minute of the first. Wideman was all alone, with all the time in the world to walk into the slot and blast a slapshot into the top of the net as the clubs were playing four aside.
The Senators came into the game insisting they couldn’t take the Panthers lightly.
When the Senators returned to the ice for practice here Monday following the All-Star break, Senators coach Guy Boucher was adamant that the club’s lacklustre performance it delivered in last Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames was unacceptable.
The Panthers, hit hard by injuries – young stars Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov remain out – are in a desperate fight to stay in the playoff race.
They entered the game having scored only 116 goals in 50 games, the second worst offensive output in the Eastern Conference.
The Senators also recognized that a regulation victory over Florida would open up a commanding 10-point gap in the standings — with three games in hand.
For all that, both teams were sloppy in the opening minutes, exchanging countless odd-man rushes.
The game was deadlocked 2-2 only nine minutes in. Dzingel had both Senators goals, while Matheson and Pysyk scored for the Panthers.
The BB&T Center is fast becoming Dzingel’s favourite out of town rink.
Tuesday’s two-goal effort was only the second of his career. Dzingel also made his NHL debut here last December.
The Senators were scheduled to fly to Tampa immediately following the game, in preparation for Thursday’s game against the Lightning.
1-Erik Karlsson, Senators: On a night for blueline scoring, Karlsson was in the middle of the action, scoring his first goal in 20 games.
2-Michael Matheson, Panthers: The highly-touted Panthers defenceman registered the first two goal game of his career.
3-Ryan Dzingel, Senators: It took Dzingel only nine minutes to hit the scoresheet twice. It was the second two-goal game of his career.