The Panthers go into the weekend ranked 18th in the league in goals scored per game, a drastic improvement over the past decade when they’ve usually been near or at the bottom in scoring.
Yet over the past few games, Florida’s offense can’t seem to get out of its own way.
The Panthers have scored a single goal in each of their past two games, taking advantage of a 39-save shutout by Roberto Luongo to beat Tampa Bay 1-0 on Monday.
On Thursday, however, the Panthers created very little in the Anaheim zone and couldn’t survive a pair of goals against Luongo in a 3-1 loss.
With games against the Rangers, Kings and Islanders coming before a big five-game road trip, the Panthers need to get their offense fixed pronto.
“It all starts from our defense, we have a great goalie, we just need to use that and attack,” said Sasha Barkov, who scored Florida’s lone goal late in the third Thursday. “We need to get the puck in their zone, play in their zone. Right now, we’re spending too much time in our zone. We need to stay on the puck, put it deep and forecheck. All of us need to do that. That will create chances.”
The past two games haven’t started off well for Florida’s offense with the Panthers being outshot 29-11 in the first period against Tampa Bay and Anaheim.
In those two games, Florida was outshot 80-45 with the Panthers opponents taking aim at the net 30 more times when missed and blocked shots are factored in.
Taking more shots toward the net is something the Panthers — especially early in the game — need to rectify.
“We know we have it in us, we just haven’t shown it much the past two games,” Nick Bjugstad said. “We have to play smarter defensively, win puck battles. We were very fortunate to beat Tampa late the other night, but when you’re being outshot two-to-one, the chances of winning are low. We need more chances.”
Coach Gerard Gallant wasn’t happy with the way the Panthers played Thursday, but after watching the game again, he had his team with two more scoring chances than the Ducks.
“I don’t put a lot on the shots, I really don’t,” Gallant said. “[On Thursday], I was frustrated, but then you watch the game. We still weren’t good, but the chances were a lot closer than I thought they were.
“When you’re coaching, all you see is the negative stuff. I still didn’t like the way we played, don’t get me wrong, but there was a lot more positives than I initially thought.”
Gallant mixed up all four of his forward lines coming into the third period Thursday but put most of them back together for Thursday’s practice.
Against the fast Rangers, Rocco Grimaldi and Quinton Howden — who were scratched Thursday — could return to the lineup.
“The Rangers are really quick, good on the forecheck and very smooth,’’ Gallant said. “They move the puck real good, are a talented team that may be the best in the league right now. We have to play well. For me, it’s about being more aggressive.’’
▪ After making 77 saves this week and starting the past five games, Luongo was given the day off from Friday’s practice at BB&T Center.
Luongo took a puck to the right side of his face early in the second period Thursday but played on with Gallant saying he was fine.
“It was just a maintenance day,’’ Gallant said. “He’s 100 percent.”
If Luongo doesn’t play Saturday — although he is expected to — Florida would turn to former New York draftee Al Montoya.
Montoya was the sixth overall pick of the Rangers in 2004 and spent three seasons in the organization but never played a game with the Rangers.
Montoya has faced New York four times and beaten them just once.
Luongo is 7-13-2 in 23 starts against the Rangers and hasn’t beaten them since Nov. 19, 2008, while with the Canucks.
Alain Vigneault, currently the Rangers coach, was behind the Vancouver bench at that time.
Saturday: Rangers at Panthers
TV, radio: FSFL; WQAM (560 AM), WMEN (640 AM), WMNA (1210 AM).
The series: New York leads 48-32-6.
Scouting report: The Rangers had their nine-game winning streak snapped with a 2-1 loss in Tampa on Thursday but have won 11 of 13. New York outscored Florida 13-6 in its three wins last season and has beaten the Panthers in six consecutive games and 10 of the past 12.