Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 3/27/12

As fans of the Florida Panthers were filing out of BankAtlantic Center Sunday evening after witnessing another shootout loss to a visiting team mired at the bottom of its conference, those wearing red were no doubt upset. Faced with two chances in 48 hours to pad its lead over the second-place Washington Capitals, Florida (36-24-15) fell short in its bid to get four points, instead grabbing just two.

But a couple of positives surfaced.

First, it sounds like a broken record that's been played over and over again at 33 1/3 rpm -- it's the longer LP version, not a quick 3-minute single on 45 -- but the Panthers did escape both contests with a point. That may not sound like much, but getting those two points was the difference in holding a three-point lead over Washington instead of a one-point lead. That would've really hurt.

Second, though, are those dreadful Florida third jerseys, and seeing them on the ice for the final time was the best thing to happen to Florida since Winnipeg rallied from a three-goal deficit to tie and ultimately beat the Caps in overtime on Friday. It's one thing to have blue in your jersey, but when you go dark blue-on-light blue, well, you better hit a home run with the pattern, and that didn't happen. Some said it resembled Pittsburgh's third, but whoever chose it clearly cheated off some designer in Bangor or Portland because it's a knockoff of the University of Maine's.

My idea for that azure atrocity was simple. Take the last blue jersey to be found in the BAC, attach a note to the front of it, put it in a time capsule, dig a deep hole and bury that sucker. Fifty years from now, someone could unearth it, revel in the jersey's state of blahness, and read the note: "Don't EVER do something like this again!".

Burying, though, is the key, and if the Panthers want to hang on to the Southeast Division's top spot, the players need to put aside the extremely disappointing shootout losses to Edmonton and the New York Islanders. Fans at the BAC have certainly by now at least been forewarned of shootout letdown.

The Edmonton shootout loss was understandable; any team that can send out Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, plus highlight-machine Linus Omark, should have a great chance at getting the extra point. The Islanders were another matter entirely, but the result was the same. Unfortunately, the Panthers and its fans have grown to expect it, but that's what happens when your team's shootout record is 5-10, including an abysmal 3-9 at home. How long ago does that home-opening win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 15 seem, which gave the Cats a 1-0 shootout record?

But Florida needs to bury its past failures and concentrate on winning these four road games -- Montreal, Minnesota, Columbus and Detroit -- in regulation. Or in overtime. Or God forbid, by shootout. Whatever it takes. Despite the recent malaise surrounding the team, the reality is the Panthers are still in pretty good position -- three points up on Washington with a game in hand, plus an easier schedule. Buffalo is fighting for its playoff life and is in DC tonight with a hot Ryan Miller versus Washington.

Florida just needs to take care of its own business, which starts with forgetting about these last two losses and essentially burying the past.

For starters, we'll need a shovel.

By Bill Whitehead
Florida Panthers Credentialed Correspondent
Hockey Columnist
Twitter: @BillWhiteheadFL
Email: BillWhiteheadFL@hotmail.com


Photo credit: Getty Images
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