Kevin Dineen’s frustration is obvious, and it’s understandable.
On Friday night, the Panthers closed their season-long, six-game homestand with a deflating 4-0 loss to the Blues at BB&T Center, a lackluster performance in which Florida’s coach called out 16 of his 19 players who hit the ice.
Hey, things could have been worse. The Panthers lost 7-0 in St. Louis on Oct. 5. The Panthers have been shut out in three of their first 13 games this season.
“We probably had three competitive guys,’’ Dineen said, mentioning Shawn Matthias, Jesse Winchester and Mike Weaver. “That’s not enough to drag the whole group along.
“If we can’t get everyone to compete harder than we did [Friday], we’ll just stumble along and get our wins here and there. ... They have to understand they’re playing in the best league in the world. It’s an absolute privilege to play in this league. There is no entitlement.’’
Florida won one of its six home games on the two-week road reprieve and gained just four of the available 12 points. The Panthers have lost four in a row since beating Minnesota in a shootout way back on Oct. 19.
Dineen said the Panthers were looking at different ways to improve, and the team could make a roster move or two in the coming days. When the team got off to a rough start in 2011, GM Dale Tallon made a big splash by trading David Booth to Vancouver.
“It’s frustrating,’’ Matthias said. “We were playing with them, then took our foot off the gas. We probably panicked a bit. We have to keep our composure. Things aren’t always going to go your way, but you can’t fall apart.’’
Things won’t get easier either as the Panthers visit a personal house of horror in Washington on Saturday night. The Panthers will play the Capitals after a late-night flight into northern Virginia and an early-morning bus ride to their hotel near the White House.
The Capitals, who beat the host Flyers 7-0 on Friday as the Panthers were getting bombarded by the Blues, have won seven consecutive home games against the Panthers and could have Alex Ovechkin back for Saturday’s game.
“You have to know what’s coming ahead,’’ defenseman Brian Campbell said. “There are no easy games for us, no matter who it is.’’
As was the case with St. Louis, things fell apart for the Panthers in the second period.
Despite a well-played first period in which the Panthers tested goalie Brian Elliott — the third consecutive backup Florida has faced — the Blues led 1-0 after Derek Roy scored when his shot hit the post and bounced off Jacob Markstrom with 4:19 left.
The Blues jumped Markstrom in the second, scoring three times within a span of 5:21 to make it 4-0.
Chris Stewart, whose brother Anthony was a first-round pick of the Panthers back in 2003, started it with Anthony Pietrangelo and Alex Steen getting in on the action as well.
St. Louis’ domination of the Panthers this season was absolutely complete. Not only was Florida outscored 11-0 in the lopsided losses, but the Panthers were outscored 7-0 in the second period alone.
“When things come at you in waves you can call a timeout, do a lot of little things,’’ Dineen said. “But that’s like putting a patch on the big rip in the raft. We need to understand when they push, we have to push back. This is a physical sport. If you’re not up to it, it’s a hard game to play.’’
Goalie Tim Thomas (lower body) didn’t practice for the second day in a row and won’t be with the team for Saturday’s game.
Scott Clemmensen is expected to get his first start of the season.
The three backups who have faced the Panthers in the past week have surrendered a grand total of four goals; Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback gave up three of them last Sunday.
All three could be back in the lineup Saturday.