If the Panthers want to salvage what’s left of this season and make a return appearance in the postseason, they had better start winning at home.
That, and get a lot more production out of their top players.
The Panthers lost for the fifth consecutive time at BB&T Center on Sunday as the tan and rested Bruins finally left town after picking up a 4-1 victory in which Florida coach Kevin Dineen benched Stephen Weiss for much of the third period.
“This will turn around somewhere along the line,” said Dineen, whose team hasn’t won at home since beating Winnipeg on Jan. 31.
“I think there’s a clear understanding on how we have to play. We can preach it and ask it, but we’ve done a lot of talking. Now it’s time for more direct action.’’
Weiss’ struggles this season have been well documented, although Dineen had kept him on Florida’s top line. Sunday, Dineen put Weiss with productive wingers Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller to start. It didn’t last.
By the end of the game, Weiss — Florida’s all-time leader in games played with the franchise — was on the bench. Weiss had been on Florida’s fourth line for a time, but when the Panthers had a 6-on-4 chance, he wasn’t around to help out.
Weiss played just two shifts in the third period. When he returned to the bench with 6:01 left, he never went back out. In 14 games, Weiss — who is a free agent after this season and has a no-trade clause in his contract — has just one goal and three assists. He is also a minus-11.
Dineen said knowing he has previously used Weiss in every situation imaginable made it a little easier in putting him on the shelf.
“For the last year and a half I’ve looked down — if we are a man short or on the power play — for that number,’’ Dineen said. “That made it much easier to have him sitting there not part of the equation with the quality of hockey he’s playing right now.’’
Sunday’s loss was just another one in a long line at home. The Panthers have won just two of nine home games and their seven home points (2-4-3) are better than just three teams — and two of those (Carolina and Winnipeg) are the only ones Florida has beaten at home.
Florida has 15 home games remaining with the three-game homestand continuing Tuesday against the Penguins — who have the second-best road record in the league behind only the uber-hot Blackhawks.
Aside from losing five in a row at home, the Panthers have lost seven of eight.
“You want to be a good road team because you have to be a great home team,’’ Shawn Matthias said.
The Bruins, who had enjoyed Fort Lauderdale Beach since arriving here Thursday night, built two two-goal leads on the Panthers before getting a short-handed, empty net goal with 1:37 left. Goalie Tuukka Rask made 34 saves.
Boston took a 2-0 lead midway through the first period with Florida’s Tomas Kopecky cutting the deficit in half by jumping on a loose puck and poking it through.
Chris Kelly then scored on a power play early in the second and that was just about that.
Rookie Jacob Markstrom made his second consecutive start in goal and played well in a losing effort.
Boston, up 3-1 in the second, watched the 6-6 rookie make a handful of big saves — including a point-blank shot from former Florida winger Nathan Horton as well as a breakaway by Rich Peverley.
“I really believe in our team, but they got up 2-0 and we were working uphill from there,’’ said Markstrom, who made 28 saves after making 37 in Friday’s 3-1 loss in Pittsburgh.
Things got chippy in the second when Mike Weaver checked Milan Lucic — who scored Boston’s first goal — into the side boards. Lucic took offense and went after Weaver, first cross-checking him in the back before tackling him to the ice. Lucic was slapped with two minor penalties and a 10-minute misconduct.
Boston, actually, did more offensively on Florida’s four-minute power play as Peverley broke through and took on Markstrom 1-on-1.The Panthers were outshot 3-0 on their own four-minute advantage.
“Those are momentum-changers in the game,” Dineen said.