RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Panthers’ longstanding problems with their power play might have cost them a win Saturday.
Florida, which hasn’t netted a power-play goal since the 2013 calendar year, struck out again in a 3-2 loss to host Carolina at PNC Arena.
On Saturday, the Panthers once more looked to be skating with a man disadvantage during their power play, going 0 for 5.
Carolina, meanwhile, cashed in and scored what would be the game-winning goal during a Florida power-play chance when the Panthers’ Tom Gilbert fumbled the puck in the neutral zone.
“Scoring goals on the power play is the key. That was the game, again,” said Tomas Fleischmann, who was credited with one shot on goal during Florida’s power-play chances.
“If we had one power-play goal, we’d have [at least] a point.”
The Panthers have failed to score in 32 consecutive power-play attempts, dating to Dec. 28 against Detroit.
On the flip side, Florida’s penalty kill has been terrific and hasn’t surrendered a goal while down during the same span.
“It’s very frustrating. We’re losing, right?” said goalie Tim Thomas, who made 36 saves.
“San Jose played really good [Thursday], are a really good team. Carolina, I’m not saying they are not a good team because they are, but this was a different situation. We made mistakes that were preventable. That’s what is frustrating.”
Although the Panthers’ power play has been a problem all season, Saturday’s game was an example of what could have been.
Florida’s power play is ranked last in the NHL — and it’s not all that close. The Panthers have goals on 9.3 percent of their power plays — a number that would be worst in franchise history if it holds up.
“Maybe we need to look at some different people or something,’” coach Peter Horachek said. “It’s frustrating because in the third period we were where we wanted to be.’’
The Panthers’ previous worst of 13 percent (2000-01) looks robust compared with the current number.
“You don’t have to look at the numbers,” Brian Campbell said. “For me, we need to shoot the puck more and quit with the nice cross-ice passes.”
The Hurricanes — who have won 29 of 40 home games against the Panthers since 2000 — came hard at Thomas in the opening period and fired off eight shots during their two power-play chances.
Thomas didn’t bend, however, although the Hurricanes struck first when Brad Boyes gave up the puck and Riley Nash scored.
Florida tied it 10 minutes later when Jonathan Huberdeau fought to keep the puck deep in the Carolina zone and found Marcel Goc in front of the net. Goc’s goal made it 1-1 with 4:45 left in the second.
Carolina scored twice within a six-plus minute span of the third to open things up.
The Hurricanes’ Alexander Semin, called out by general manager Jim Rutherford two days earlier, whipped a shot from inside the left circle off a faceoff that Florida’s Nick Bjugstad appeared to win. Thomas never saw the shot as Jiri Tlusty drove a Florida defender into the goalie as the puck began its flight.
Later, Gilbert gave up the puck on Florida’s fifth power play of the night with Eric Staal picking it off and sliding it to Semin for the breakaway goal.
The Panthers brought the deficit back to one when Tomas Kopecky redirected a long shot from Dmitry Kulikov past goalie Anton Khudobin (37 saves) with 5:39 left.
Florida pulled Thomas but couldn’t find the elusive third goal.
Horachek said that Jesse Winchester hasn’t been cleared to return to the lineup after missing the past month with a broken hand.
“He just got back and had one full practice,” Horachek said.
“I and the trainers felt it was important for him to have an extra day.”