SUNRISE, Fla. -- If the Panthers veteran goaltending tandem of Scott Clemmensen and Jose Theodore continues to treat opposing shooters like welcome house guests, then this abbreviated season may soon turn into an open audition for AHL callups.
After witnessing another collapse in net, this one by Clemmensen in the first period, don't be surprised if impatient General Manager Dale Tallon has a certain 6-foot-6 Swedish rookie callup on speed dial.
Jacob Markstrom, who's being groomed for the starting job next season, may have that timetable adjusted, after he showed his readiness in successive starts last week in losses to the Penguins and Bruins in which he earned Third-Star honors.
After two straight solid outings, Clemmensen allowed three goals on 10 shots in the first 16:46 of the game before being mercifully pulled, but despite Brian Campbell's tying goal with 1:26 left in regulation, it wasn't enough to prevent a 4-3 shootout loss to the Eastern Conference cellar-dwelling Buffalo Sabres at BB&T Center Thursday.
The Sabres, who notched their first two-game winning streak on the road after making it a clean sweep of Florida, leapfrogged the Panthers, who have yet to win two games in a row at home. Only two points separates Florida from the Capitals in the basement.
Trailing 3-2 since the first period, Campbell whose third-period goal beat his former team on Super Bowl Sunday, took Marcel Goc's faceoff pass and drilled it past goalie Ryan Miller, who entered the game with a career-worst 2.83 goals-against-average.
That was Vezina-like compared to Clemmensen's pre-game 3.62 or Theodore's 3.52 GAA, which are two of the three worst GAA's in the league among goalies who have faced more than 150 shots.
That partly explains why the Panthers rank last in goals allowed and goals-allowed-per-game.
Theodore, who had given up 19 goals in his previous five appearances, played well in relief and may have earned his starting job back after being replaced in five of six games. However, his shootout record fell to 22-17 when he was beat on both attempts from Panthers' killers Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.
Unlike the Panthers lone shootout of the season when they downed the Flyers 3-2 on shootout tallies by rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, this time both were thwarted by Miller.
When Dineen coached the Portland of the AHL when they were in the Sabres' organization he developed three AHL rookie of the years and two of them, a 5-foot-5 Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis, accounted for all three of Buffalo's first-period goals.
Actually, Clemmensen should've received an assist on all three tissue-soft shots, instead of Buffalo's Steve Ott.
Gerbe beat Clemmensen at 6:30 with a flutter-ball shot and then Ennis swatted in a rebound for a power-play goal at 11:00 on the Sabres' fifth shot.
The Panthers, 'kiddie' line struck again as after the puck hopped over Mueller's stick, rookie Drew Shore potted career-goal No. 2 for the Panthers' fifth power-play goal in their last eight chances.
Just 56 seconds later, Goc took the puck away from two Sabres behind their net and connected on a diving wrap-around.
The backward, 'Bizarro' goalie clinic continued as Gerbe streaked down the ice again before slipping another seemingly harmless shot past Clemmensen's short side at 16:46 for a 3-2 Sabres' lead.
Dineen, doing his best Sparky 'Captain Hook' Anderson impression, went to the pen for Theodore.
Upshall, Versteeg close; Weaver hurt
Dineen said that oft-injured forward Scottie Upshall was questionable to return Thursday, but he has now missed the last 13 games with an ankle injury.
Defenseman Filip Kuba, out the last two games with an upper-body injury, returned, and rookie Colby Robak was scratched. Robak will probably stick around after defenseman Mike Weaver sustained a lower-body in the first period and didn't' return.
Kris Versteeg has missed the last nine games with a "chest" injury.
A slumping Stephen Weiss, who missed the Penguins' game to attend his grandmother, Elizabeth Weiss' funeral in Toronto, returned.
Weiss said his grandmother's failing health was no excuse for his uncharacteristic subpar start.
"My parents kept it from me. I didn't know until after the Boston game (Sunday)," he said. "It was definitely nice to go back home to see the family. Any time that happens it kind of refocuses you, so I'm looking forward to playing."
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