SUNRISE, Fla. -- On a night the marine scientist who discovered the wreck of the Titanic discussed his work with fans before the game, the Florida Panthers sank deeper into the gloomy depths of the Eastern Conference.
Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek doesn't need a lecture from Dr. Robert Ballard on what is needed to keep his unsteady ship afloat.
"We have to have everybody pulling the ropes in the same direction and on the same page," Horachek said before Thursday night's 3-1 defeat against the Detroit Red Wings at the BB&T Center.
What they needed was an effort like in Tuesday's dominating 4-1 win over Toronto when the Panthers had a season-high 48 shots, including 19 in the first period.
In a complete reversal of that inspired performance, they barely exceeded their season low with 24 shots (19 on Oct. 5 at St. Louis). They mustered only two shots the first period and eight through 40 minutes.
"They outworked us. It's as simple as that," Horachek said after watching his team manhandled by a Detroit team intent on turning the tide in the final game of the season series. The Panthers won three of the first four, including both in Detroit.
Tim Thomas stopped 30 of 32 shots by the Red Wings -- the final goal came with an empty net. But second-period goals by Panthers killer Daniel Alfredsson and Gustav Nyquist reversed a 1-0 deficit.
The Panthers took a tenuous lead when Scottie Upshall bolted out of the penalty box and scored on a breakaway on their second shot with 25 seconds left in the first period. Tomas Kopecky fired a blue line-to-blue line pass to the streaking Upshall, who beat Jimmy Howard with a wrister through the wickets.
It was the 100th career assist for Kopecky, who will play for Slovakia in the Olympics.
It should have been a huge lift for the Panthers, who were outplayed throughout the period while Detroit registered 11 of the first 12 shots.
"I was hoping we could turn it around and get ourselves going off of the momentum of that goal," Thomas said. "But we got ourselves into a little bit of penalty trouble."
Thomas held Detroit at bay early with some sparkling saves. Most spectacular was late in the first period when he sprawled to dislodge the puck from the stick of Darren Helm, who slipped around the Panthers defense.
The Red Wings continued to get the better scoring chances and finally converted on their third power-play opportunity at 6:30 of the second period with Brian Campbell off for tripping. Alfredsson pounced on a rebound and flipped it past Thomas, who stopped a shot from the right point but left the net open for Alfredsson charging in from the left.
Alfredsson has 29 goals and 61 points in 63 games against the Panthers, most of them while playing for Ottawa.
The Panthers had a chance when Jonathan Huberdeau set up Nick Bjugstad on the doorstep, but Howard thwarted him with a pad save.
Moments later Howard robbed Jesse Winchester at close range. Gustav Nyquist raced back the other way down the left side and fired a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot over Thomas' shoulder on the short side.
The Panthers were lucky to survive the period with a one-goal deficit. They had to withstand a four-minute power play with Kopecky off for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Florida was handcuffed by seven penalties in the game to three for Detroit.
They got a power-play opportunity early in the third period, but 28 seconds later Huberdeau was called for tripping, negating the advantage. Huberdeau couldn't get a point-blank shot past Howard moments before.
"They're a puck-possession team. You've got to check them hard, limit their time and space," Panthers captain Ed Jovanovski said.
Florida's earlier success against Detroit this season was surprising, considering the Red Wings were battling for a playoff spot and came into the game 11 points ahead of the Panthers, who are mired in 14th place out of 15 in the conference.
"It's disappointing. We want to play a whole game. It wasn't there," Horachek said. "The answer why? I don't know why. The energy looked good this morning, the attitude looked good this morning. But they outworked us. They dominated the offensive zone time. We have to be more prepared to play."
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