It doesn’t seem to matter what Kevin Dineen does in trying to change the Panthers’ fortune. Nothing seems to work.
Dineen has changed goalies, practice venues, offensive lines and defensive pairings. Even wearing his lucky green tie with embroidered shamrocks didn’t help things Saturday night, although for a bit it looked like it might.
The Panthers fell into a 3-0 hole only to rally and tie the score in near-record time. Yet the visiting Islanders scored with seven minutes left and handed Florida its sixth consecutive loss with a 4-3 victory at BB&T Center.
“I’ve had it almost a dozen years,” Dineen said, his dark green tie still knotted tight. “Unfortunately, my record took a little beating.”
Saturday’s game was Florida’s last at home for some time as the Panthers, riding a season-long winless streak, embark on a season-long, five-game road trip with games against playoff challengers Carolina, the Rangers, Devils, Maple Leafs and these Islanders.
Yes, believe it or not, but the Islanders are three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Florida, meanwhile, remains in last place in the entire league, and if that holds, it would mark the first time the Panthers have finished at the bottom of the NHL.
With such a finish comes perks as potentially having their pick of the litter at the upcoming draft. Although adding another blue-chip prospect to a deep stable of can’t-miss-kids will be fun for the Panthers come June, things are quite painful right now.
Florida has not only lost six in a row, but it has dropped nine of its past 10. And 11 of its past 13. And 16 of 19. Saturday’s loss leaves the Panthers 4-8-5 on home ice.
“We all want to win in here, so from that standpoint, it’s getting frustrating,” Jack Skille said. “Everyone wants it in here. We all say the right things between periods; we have a lot of character in this room.”
The Islanders, who have won five of seven, scored twice in the opening period as Scott Clemmensen — getting his second consecutive start — surrendered goals on consecutive shots within a span of 2:33.
New York quickly made it 3-0 when Brad Boyes scored 33 seconds into the second period, giving the Isles three goals on four shots against Clemmensen.
The Panthers have been down this road a lot lately. They have surrendered the initial goal in 10 of their past 12 games. All of those games in which the Panthers fell behind, not coincidentally, were losses.
Florida bounced back to life in the third, finally beating Evgeni Nabokov when T.J. Brennan — acquired in a Friday night deal with the Sabres — scored in his Florida debut by banging in a loose puck from the slot.
He didn’t know what he would start.
Brennan’s goal kick-started a three-goal outburst from the offensively challenged Panthers as Marcel Goc and Mike Santorelli followed with goals.
“Maybe it’s nice to be thrown into the fire; it settles you down a bit,” Brennan said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much. They told me to shoot when I can, if I see opportunities.”
Florida’s three-goal tally in a span of 1:43 was the third-fastest in franchise history. The Panthers scored three in a span of 62 seconds at Buffalo in 2009.
“We have highs and lows we need to balance out,” Dineen said. “When you push as hard as we did to come back, you’re proud of them.”
The Panthers couldn’t get at least a point out of the comeback, however, as Casey Cizikas dove for a loose puck in front of Shawn Matthias and put it past Clemmensen.
“It has to be a more productive game,” Dineen said. “We need a more complete game.”
The Panthers lost defenseman Ed Jovanovski to an undisclosed injury during the second period. Jovanovski had missed 21 games with a lower-body injury before returning Saturday.
Jonathan Huberdeau (hand/wrist) and Peter Mueller (lower body) left during the first period. Both were on the ice to start the second. George Parros (upper body) left after fighting during the first and didn’t return.