The Panthers’ offensive problems through the first five games this season are glaring.
Yet a team that’s averaging just one goal a game is keeping its head above water so far, getting four of a possible 10 points.
Nothing great, for sure, but if not for Florida’s defensive play, things could be so much worse.
The Panthers, now 1-2-2 heading into Tuesday’s game at Colorado, have given up just nine goals this season.
Take away an unsightly four-goal first period by New Jersey in the home opener on Oct.11 and Florida’s goals-against average would be downright miniscule.
“They are doing some real good things,’’ said coach Gerard Gallant, who credits consistent play on the back end by Florida’s forwards as well as the Panthers’ defensemen.
“We’re getting good breakouts, the guys are really getting it and communicating well out there. Overall we’re playing a stronger defensive game. If you can keep the goals down, you give yourself a chance, and I think the guys are really buying in.’’
The key to a good defense in hockey usually starts with goaltending and the Panthers definitely have that.
Starter Roberto Luongo moved into a tie for 13th all-time in shutouts when he blanked the host Sabres on Friday night, and Al Montoya gave up one goal off 28 shots in Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Capitals.
As was the case Saturday, Florida has done a real good job in shutting out the opposition’s star player this year.
Tampa Bay scored three goals against Florida in the season opener yet Steven Stamkos didn’t find the scoresheet.
On Saturday, all-world forward Alex Ovechkin was shut out — a rarity for him against the Panthers over the years.
“I think you credit that to a bunch of guys who are working hard,’’ Gallant said. “We really think it’s a team thing. We hope taking care of our defensive end will lead to offensive chances. We’re giving up 10-12 chances a game and our goalies have been making the saves.’’
Florida knows it cannot rely on stout defense every night and that its offense is going to have to start carrying some of the load.
“We’re trying to stick to the systems and limiting Washington to one goal is pretty good,’’ Jonathan Huberdeau said. “We’re not focusing on one guy but having good defense from all four lines. And our goalies have been pretty good. That’s good to see. Both goalies have been ready to play.’’
The Panthers’ five goals ranks them last in the NHL — even below the Sabres. By comparison, Pittsburgh leads the league by averaging four goals a night.
Florida is one of four teams (Colorado, Winnipeg and Buffalo) to remain in single digits in the scoring category.
Five goals have been scored by five separate players, and Florida’s two-goal night in Tampa Bay was its biggest output of the season.
▪ Brandon Pirri was in the lineup for the first time this season on Saturday as he replaced the injured Dave Bolland.
Pirri created some offensive chances on Saturday and hopes that has earned him some more playing time.
“It’s fun being out there, it’s hockey, it’s what you want to do,’’ said Pirri, who scored seven goals in 21 games for the Panthers at the end of last season.
“I had some chances and wish I would have buried them. ... You want to be playing, but Gerard has to do what he thinks is best for the team. I have to stay ready and make the most of the opportunity.’’
▪ The Panthers took Sunday off after landing in Denver early in the morning. The team is scheduled to practice at Pepsi Center on Monday.