Just two days after their franchise-record winning streak was snapped in Vancouver, the Panthers crashed back to earth late Wednesday night in Calgary.
The good news after the Flames’ 6-0 victory? Calgary’s airport was only a short bus ride away from the Saddledome.
“There’s no reason to hit the panic button,” Erik Gudbranson said. “It’s just two games. We got a point in the last game we played. Sometimes, you just get it handed to you.”
The Panthers, after 10 days in western New York and Canada, will be back home at least for a few days.
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Florida, on a two-game losing streak after winning 12 consecutive, visits Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon.
The team took Thursday off after an early morning arrival and won’t practice until Saturday.
After this past trip, one in which the Panthers won in Buffalo, Ottawa and Edmonton before losing in overtime at Vancouver, they look like they could use the rest.
Florida goes into Tampa 3-1-1 on this current road trip and will follow its game with the Lightning with a four-game homestand before the All-Star break.
“We have a couple days off now. We have to regroup and be positive,” Jonathan Huberdeau said. “We’re still a good team; it’s just one game. We have to erase it out of our memories and just move onto Tampa next.
“It’s a division game so it’s going to be important. The game, our identity, that’s not how we play. We’ve gotta forget about it and regroup as a team and worry about the next game.”
Wednesday’s game was a nightmare from the start.
Florida fell behind 1-0 just 56 seconds in as Calgary’s Sam Bennett beat Roberto Luongo on the first shot of the night.
The Panthers trailed 3-0 with 7:59 left in the first period after Bennett scored his second. Florida was being outshot 10-3 at the time.
With 2:59 left in the period, Bennett got his third of the night to bring a barrage of baseball caps onto the Saddledome ice.
Luongo (11 saves on 15 shots) stayed in net through the end of the first period but was on the bench to start the second as Al Montoya came on in relief.
Bennett scored his fourth goal of the game with 25 seconds remaining to put the end to a miserable night for the Panthers, who were outshot 36-15 and really challenged goalie Jonas Hiller only once or twice.
“I don’t think we were ready. That’s about it,” Huberdeau said. “I think we left Luongo alone in the net tonight. Fortunately, Montoya came in the net for us. But we can’t let our goalie be in the net by themselves. We’re a good team. We just have to show it.”
As for the loss, the Panthers aren’t worried about people calling their 12-game winning streak a fluke — nor should they.
Although the Panthers were outshot in many of their games over the past month, they came into Wednesday’s game either tied or holding a lead for of 88 percent of their previous 22 games (18-3-1).
And before Wednesday, the Panthers had not trailed at an intermission in 13 games.
“It’s always easier when you play with a lead and teams are pushing,” Willie Mitchell said. “We really haven’t had games, to be honest, where we’ve gotten down early, where it’s been that hard-fought game.
“I think, the whole streak for us was good because you get on a roll like that and you want to keep it going.”
Florida, which came into Thursday continuing to hold a six-point lead on Detroit (the Red Wings played at Arizona late Thursday) atop the Atlantic Division, beat five teams that currently hold or are tied for a playoff spot during its winning streak.
Speaking of playoff positioning, Florida not only holds an automatic spot by being in the top three of its division, it came into Thursday 10 points ahead of Boston which held the final postseason slot.
The Panthers, who lost 8-2 at Winnipeg a year ago Wednesday in a similar position at the end of a long yet successful road trip, hope to get back on track against a Lightning team they beat twice in consecutive games in November.
Last year, the Winnipeg loss was the start of what ended up being a five-game losing streak.
The Panthers figure they’re a much different team this year.
“It’s not back to the drawing board,” Gudbranson said. “We’re a good hockey team, we just have to figure out a way to get back to our game. It just wasn’t good enough. … At the end of the day, it’s a good thing; We needed a good spanking like that.”
▪ Assistant coach Mike Kelly coached the team Wednesday in place of Gerard Gallant, who was back home in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island for the funeral of his mother Rosie.
With Gallant away, goalie coach Robb Tallas wasn’t in his usual spot in the coaches’ booth above the ice but behind the bench helping run Florida’s forward lines.
“Everyone goes through something like that,” Kelly said of the thorough defeat Wednesday. “You just have to suck it up, go home and we’ll get a couple days of rest and get ready for the next one.”
Gallant is expected to be back in time for Florida’s 11 a.m. practice Saturday at the Coral Springs IceDen.
That practice is open to the public. The Panthers will then fly to Tampa for Sunday’s 5 p.m. game against the Lightning.
Miami Herald correspondent Kristen Odland contributed to this report.