Shorthanded Panthers look to rebound vs. Stars

( – The Florida Panthers will attempt to bounce back from a
tough-luck loss last time out as they play host to the Dallas Stars on
Thursday evening.

Little went right for the Panthers in a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs,
one that left them two points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild
card spot in the Eastern Conference with now two more games played.

Boston also is in action tonight, hosting the Calgary Flames.

Not only did the Panthers have a two-game win streak halted, but they saw both
of their goaltenders injured in a bizarre game that left them scrambling for
help between the pipes.

Roberto Luongo started the game and did not return for the start of the second
period, eventually coming back to the bench in street clothes as he took a
shot off his right shoulder. Backup Al Montoya then suffered a groin injury 22
seconds into the third period on Toronto’s game-tying goal.

Montoya stayed in the game for an extended period of time despite his injury
before finally being relieved by a returning Luongo with 9:08 remaining in the

Amid all the uncertainty, Panthers goaltending coach Rob Tallas put on a
uniform and took a seat on the bench under NHL Rule 5.3, which allows teams to
dress any eligible player in a goaltender emergency.

“Obviously, we were really concerned,” Florida head coach Gerard Gallant said.
“We were playing a pretty good game and all of a sudden you lose two goalies
pretty quick.”

Brandon Pirri and Aaron Ekblad scored for the Panthers, who have lost five of
their past seven while splitting the first four of a seven-game homestand.
Ekblad’s goal was his 11th of the season, surpassing the previous franchise
mark for a rookie defenseman set by Ed Jovanovski in 1995-96.

The Panthers recalled both Dan Ellis from the American Hockey League and Sam
Brittain from the ECHL. Ellis, a former member of the Stars, is expected to
start tonight with Luongo day-to-day.

The Stars picked up a big 3-2 overtime victory versus the New York Islanders
last time out, but it came with a cost as defenseman Trevor Daley sustained a
lower-body injury early in the game after getting kneed by the Isles’ Matt

Head coach Lindy Ruff said after the win on Tuesday, one that snapped a six-
game slide (0-4-2), that Daley would be out for weeks with the injury.

Daley is among the NHL leaders for goals by a defenseman with 16 and his
injury comes less than a month after star forward Tyler Seguin suffered a
sprained right knee on a questionable hit by Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov on Feb.
13. Seguin is expected to miss 3-to-6 weeks with that ailment.

Dallas is nine points out of the second wild card spot in the Western
Conference as it rebounded on Tuesday after giving up a game-tying goal with
1.7 seconds left in regulation. Cody Eakin secured the extra point for the
Stars, finishing off a 2-on-1 rush by snapping home a feed from Jamie Benn at
2:18 of overtime.

“That was hard,” Ruff said. “To bounce back and come down the ice and score
the goal we scored was something our fans needed.”

Brett Ritchie and Vernon Fiddler also lit the lamp and Kari Lehtonen made 35
saves for the Stars.

Lehtonen may have earned another start tonight as Dallas begins a five-game
road trip. He is 14-8-4 with a 2.46 goals against average, .925 save
percentage and four shutouts in 27 career meetings (26 starts) versus the

The Stars, who have won six of their past 10 in Florida, snapped a three-game
slide to the Panthers with a 2-0 home victory on Feb. 13. Lehtonen posted a
37-save shutout, while Benn and Jason Spezza had goals.

Montoya made 26 saves in defeat.