Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 11/6/11
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Want to know what happened to the Florida Panthers on Sunday? Same thing as last Thursday. Same thing as last Monday. "A little bit of the same old story for our fan base," said coach Kevin Dineen. For the third time in a three-game homestand, the Panthers lost in a shootout. But this was the cruelest defeat of them all, with the Panthers blowing a 3-0 lead after the first period and losing 4-3 at the BankAtlantic Center to in-state rival Tampa Bay. "No, I haven't had three consecutive," said Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski on this run of shootout losses in his 17-year career -- although shootouts weren't added to the NHL regular season until 2005. So are the Panthers simply the unluckiest team in the NHL or is their promising start beginning to slip away? Florida was 6-4 entering the homestand. But the Panthers have now dropped to 6-4-3. They allowed Winnipeg to score a tying goal with 50 seconds in regulation last Monday before the Jets won 4-3 in a shootout. Then came last Thursday's 3-2 shootout setback to Chicago. "What ends up happening is you wonder where these points have gone in March and April when you need them," Jovanovski said. "We've pissed away points. It comes around to bite you in the (behind) towards the end (of the season)... We have to step on teams when we build up leads like (the Panthers did Sunday). It's definitely a bitter pill to swallow right now." The Panthers have 15 points, having tallied at least one in four straight games. But that wasn't much of a consolation Sunday. Florida took its 3-0 lead on first-period goals by Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Mike Santorelli. The goal was the first with the Panthers by Campbell, a defenseman who leads the team with 11 assists. Making Campbell's tally just 1:49 into the game an even more feel-good moment was one of the assists went to Kris Versteeg, his teammate when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup two years ago. While Versteeg had played last season with Toronto and Philadelphia before coming to Florida, Campbell was traded last June from Chicago to Florida. But the fun didn't last much past the first period. The Lightning got a pair of goals in the second period and one 8:11 into the third period by Teddy Purcell that tied the score 3-3. Once again, the Panthers were doomed when the shootout arrive. After both teams failed to convert on their first three tries, Dominic Moore put the Lightning up. Then Florida's Sean Bergenheim misfired and that was it. "We can't be pissing away points here," said Versteeg, offering up what seems to be a verb of choice these days on the Panthers. "This is really frustrating ... We let them come back in the game. They didn't do anything (special). They made a couple of good plays but we let them back in the game." Yes, it's very early. But the Panthers, vying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000, currently stand in a three-way tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference. Even one extra point during the homestand would have them in a tie for fifth. The Panthers also lost a possible two points Oct. 27 at Ottawa when the Senators scored a goal with 2.5 seconds left to win 4-3. OK, so it probably would have been just one point lost since Florida likely would lost the shootout. One thing is for sure. The Panthers, while much improved this season, aren't showing the makings of being a clutch outfit. Stephen Weiss might have been able to change that a bit Sunday when he had a great opportunity to win the game for the Panthers with just under 10 seconds left in regulation. But his shot in front of the net was stopped on a top-notch kick save by Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, who relieved Mathieu Garon after he had allowed three goals in the first 15:21 and was brilliant the rest of the away. Florida goalie Jose Theodore was mostly steady himself. Dineen felt good when he stopped the first shot in the shootout. But it didn't end up mattering. "I've been down this road before when you don't have success in the shootout," Dineen said. "And then I've seen it change. I think it always does." For now, though, it's the same old story for those at the BankAtlantic Center. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com and on Twitter @christomasson.
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