“The-o-dore! The-o-dore!” the fans in red screamed at Panthers goalie Jose Theodore.
The goalie had heard similar chants at Verizon Center during his two-year stint with the Capitals. Most of the time, they came from adoring fans as he helped Washington win the 2009-2010 Southeast Division championship banner that hung in the rafters.
But in his first start at Verizon Center since being pulled in Game 2 of the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, this “The-o-dore!” was more jeer than cheer. Fans mocked him when he skated to the bench after getting pulled when he let the Capitals take a 3-0 lead by the end of the second period.
“I wasn’t happy with [Theodore’s] game tonight, nor the other night,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said in reference to Theodore’s last game when he gave up five goals.
“He knows what my expectations are for him,” said Dineen who sent Theodore back into the game about a minute and a half later. “More than anything, I wanted to have a quick little chat with him on the bench and then send his bum right back in there to right the ship.”
The goalie allowed four goals on 29 shots, and he is also 0-3-4 in his last seven starts.
It was a familiar feeling for Theodore, who was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1994. In his return to Montreal on Oct. 21, 2005, the goalie allowed eight goals in an 8-5 Colorado Avalanche loss.
What is a new feeling for the Panthers is the postseason. Even though the comeback attempt fell short in their 4-2 loss, the Panthers clinched their first playoff birth in 12 seasons by way of a Buffalo loss.
“I think he give them a chance to be in the playoffs. He played unbelievable this year,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored in the second period. “Everybody knows he’s a great goalie, but today we knew we have to make lots of shots and find rebounds. And that’s what we did.”
The feeling in the Florida locker room was more bittersweet, especially for Stephen Weiss, who was drafted by the Panthers in 2001 and will go to the playoffs for the first time in his NHL career.
“We don’t do anything easy this year,” Weiss said. “We made it hard for ourselves, but we’re going to work. That’s the one thing this group is going to do. We’re going to work hard and give it all we got.
“I couldn’t care less how it happened. We’re in. All you got to do is get in and anything can happen.”