Reeling Florida Panthers seek consistency


The Panthers, in the midst of their second five-game winless skid this season, know their erratic play must end.

In the span of five games, the Panthers have been the most inconsistent team in the NHL.

In two of those five games, the Panthers scored 10 goals. In the other three, zilch.

“It seems that if we don’t score in the first period, we don’t have a very good game,” Tomas Fleischmann said. “We need to find goals, period. You can see in the games we score that we’re comfortable and do the right things. But then we go away from that.”

The only consistent things about those games have been the results, however, as the Panthers haven’t won any of them.

And to end this five-game slide, Florida needs to find some sort of happy medium.

“You could talk about this all day because it is really frustrating to score all those goals in two games and then be shut out in the others,” Shawn Matthias said.

“We have to look at what we’ve done in the games we were scoring. We need to get back to the basics, throw pucks at the net. Find a way. It doesn’t always have to be pretty. Ugly goals count just like the pretty ones do. You don’t have to get highlight-reel goals.”

Florida is in the midst of its second five-game slide in this month-old season — a trend that doesn’t bode well for any postseason hopes.

“This is our season, right here,” Fleischmann said. “We need to figure it out.”

For a team that is desperate to find its winning touch, things aren’t going to come any easier.

Four of the losses came during a homestand in which Florida had hoped to pad its point total. After all, only Toronto came into South Florida riding any kind of a winning streak.

Washington and Tampa Bay, which both rallied from 5-3 deficits to beat the Panthers 6-5 in overtime, ended losing streaks against Florida. Montreal had lost three of four before blanking the Panthers 1-0.

“It’s not for lack of effort,” coach Kevin Dineen said, “but there is a confidence issue there. When adversity happens, you sometimes shake it off. We’ve been down in some games and been able to come back. That’s a nice character trait to have.

“Right now, our feeling is we need a complete game. It’s impossible to be perfect; this is a game of mistakes.”

In the five-game winless streak, Florida has gone 0-2-3, getting just three of the available 10 points. The Panthers came into Tuesday ranked 13th in the Eastern Conference, five points out of a playoff spot.

“Things have been up and down and on both ends of the scale,” said Dineen, whose team has been outscored 21-10 during the winless streak.

“There’s a level of consistency that has to be the standard for our game. There’s swings in different areas, scoring production and defense.”

With the homestand behind them, the Panthers now look ahead to a quick trip through Pennsylvania with games in Philadelphia (Thursday) and Pittsburgh (Friday).

The Panthers’ previous win came in Philadelphia on Feb. 7 with Florida coming back from a 2-1 deficit in the third period to win 3-2 in a shootout.

That is not only Florida’s last win to date, but its only overtime victory of the season. The Panthers have lost three in overtime since.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Fleischmann said of Florida’s return to Philadelphia. “We beat them in a shootout after being down in the third. This is going to be tough, tougher than before. We have to be ready mentally for this one.”

• Dineen said both Kris Versteeg (upper body) and Scottie Upshall (ankle) skated before Tuesday’s practice, but he didn’t have a timetable for their return.

Versteeg has been out since being hurt Feb. 12 against the Capitals; Upshall has been out since Jan. 31. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski is expected to be out until the end of the month.

“All the guys who aren’t here are non-factors right now,” Dineen said.

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