No team benefited from the NHL’s so-called “loser’s point’’ more than the Florida Panthers last season.
The Panthers won the Southeast Division and advanced to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade despite losing 18 of the 25 games that went into overtime.
Florida went into the postseason with more overtime losses than any other team that made the playoffs — and just one fewer than the last-place Canadiens.
The Panthers lamented the loss of those extra points that come with winning games in overtime then, just as they are right now.
“It’s tough to lose those points,” Tomas Kopecky said.
Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Lightning was Florida’s fourth overtime defeat this season.
Five of the Panthers’ past six games have gone into extra time. Of those five overtime games, the Panthers have gotten the second point just once.
“You’re not getting in the playoffs with 48 points. A point a game just isn’t going to work,” coach Kevin Dineen said.
“We have to find a way to get a more complete effort and get the two points — especially at home.’’
The Panthers are finding themselves unable to finish lately.
Two of the past three games have featured 5-3 leads in the third period — and ended with losses when the final horn sounded.
“Good teams know how to clamp down and win those games,” Jerred Smithson said.
“I truly believe we are a good team, and we need to get those two points. No excuse. We let it slip away.”
A good chunk of Florida’s overtime losses last season (11 of 18) came in shootouts. The Panthers were really bad in shootouts last season, so much so that general manager Dale Tallon went out and got some shootout help.
Alex Kovalev and Peter Mueller have been very strong in shootouts during their careers.
So, too, has rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, who was a master at the craft during his junior career.
But of Florida’s five overtime games, the Panthers’ defense has only been good enough once to remain tied through overtime to get to a shootout.
“You get stung as many times as we have in a row,” Dineen said, “and there is a little bit of a confidence factor.
“I believe we have the right guys who can get the job completed.”
In the Panthers’ only shootout opportunity this season, Huberdeau and Mueller scored, and Jose Theodore stopped the two Philadelphia shots he faced.
The last time Smithson had scored an NHL goal, he was wearing the blue and gold of the Nashville Predators.
A lot has changed since then. Smithson found himself in and out of the Nashville lineup before being shipped south to help the Panthers’ playoff run on Feb. 24 of last year.
Smithson scored his first goal since Oct. 15, 2011, on Saturday. Smithson’s goal came with 4.2 seconds left in the second period and tied the score against the Lightning.
“Any time you contribute on the scoreboard, it’s a bonus,” Smithson said.
“I want to score more, I would like to do it more, but they seem to have come few and far between. It felt good. The team kind of got a spark from tying it late.”
Florida scored two quick goals to open the third to take a 5-3 lead — momentum all created from Smithson scoring late in the second.
“Every goal was scored within 10 feet of the net,” Dineen said. “You have to go to those hard places, and good things follow.”• Dineen continued to give his beleaguered goalies a vote of confidence, saying after Saturday’s game that Theodore — who made 30 saves against the Lightning — wasn’t completely at fault.
“He made some really quality saves,” Dineen said. “That’s what we needed. He gave us enough. He didn’t have a real chance on the last two.”