The Florida Panthers trudged home from a week-long road trip late Monday night, finally landing in Fort Lauderdale in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
The long flight from Arizona probably didn’t improve their mood.
The Panthers headed west last week hoping to build on the momentum of their home victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. They didn’t do so.
Florida lost all four of its games on the trip, two coming in overtime as the Panthers picked up just two of the available eight points.
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“The guys are frustrated, everyone is frustrated because we’re not winning enough,” said GM and interim head coach Tom Rowe.
On Monday, the Panthers took a 1-0 lead on the host Arizona Coyotes on Vincent Trocheck’s seventh goal in the past eight games only to watch the Coyotes score twice in a span of 12 seconds in the second period to take the lead.
Michael Sgarbossa’s second goal in three games (his first NHL goal came Wednesday in Edmonton) tied things up going into the third, but both teams failed to cash in on opportunities in the third and the game went to overtime.
As has been the case lately, the Panthers lost in the extra frame as Tobias Rieder scored 48 seconds in. The Panthers never took possession of the puck.
“Anytime you lose a game like that it’s tough to swallow,” Keith Yandle said. “Look at the chances; ou kick yourself for not scoring them.”
The Panthers have lost nine of their past 11 games which have gone to overtime since firing Gerard Gallant in November. Florida had been 6-1 in overtime games under Gallant.
Florida scored eight goals in the four-game trip and went 2-for-11 on the power play.
“We’re not scoring a whole lot 5-on-5,” Rowe said.
“Some guys have to give us more; we have to get more offense out of some of our top-end guys. We just have to keep plugging away, scratch-and-claw for as many points as we can possibly get right now.”
Despite the losses, there is a little silver lining to take in that the Panthers are still in the playoff hunt.
Although the Panthers now sit just a touch above the .500 mark with 50 points in 49 games, they come into Tuesday two points back of the Flyers for the final wild card spot and three points behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.
The Panthers play host to cross-state rival Tampa Bay – which amazingly sit in last place in the Eastern Conference yet have just three fewer points than Florida does -- on Thursday at BB&T Center before taking the weekend off for the All-Star break.
Florida plays its next four at home with two coming against divisional foes Tampa and Ottawa (Tuesday) before southern Cal teams Anaheim and Los Angeles pull into town.
“I guess the only silver lining is the teams we are fighting with for that last spot are losing as well,” said Rowe, who is 9-9-9 since taking over for Gallant.
“No one is really running away with it but at some point, we have to a string of games together.”
UP NEXT FOR THE PANTHERS
▪ Thursday: Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 p.m. (BB&T Center, Sunrise)
▪ Friday-Sunday: All-Star break (Vincent Trocheck will participate in Los Angeles)
▪ Tuesday: Ottawa Senators, 7:30 p.m. (BB&T Center, Sunrise)