The sun did indeed come up for the Panthers on Saturday morning and did so just a few hours after their 2-1 double-overtime loss to the Islanders ended in, well, Sunrise.
The loss came in the second-longest game in franchise history and puts the Panthers in the position of win or go home as New York holds a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series that heads to Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday night.
A Florida victory forces Game 7 on Tuesday night at BB&T Center.
“They’ve had a good series, are playing real well and we’re down 3-2,” coach Gerard Gallant said regarding his team’s mental state before boarding its chartered flight. “We have to keep playing, hope to get a few breaks. We haven’t had many go our way so far. We have to keep working, playing our game. I can’t tell them to play much better.”
No team has held serve after a win in the series with the two teams alternating victories.
Although the Islanders won two of three in Sunrise during the series, the Panthers went 1-1 in Brooklyn, including Wednesday’s hard-fought 2-1 victory in Game 4.
With the exception of Dmitry Kulikov’s last-minute, empty-net goal in Game 2, all games in the series have been decided by a goal, with two going to overtime.
“I think we have been playing great this series and have had a lot of chances,” Sasha Barkov said. “We have been playing good defensive game and offensive game so we have a pretty good chance to win.”
Aside from the final tally on the scoreboard, the Panthers suffered a potentially big loss during the first overtime when Nick Bjugstad lost his footing after contact from Shane Prince and went face-first into the boards.
After a scary few moments in which Bjugstad remained motionless on the ice while being attended to by two trainers as well as doctors summoned from their seats, the 23-year-old center was helped off the ice and into the locker room, blood streaming down his face.
Gallant said Bjugstad got some stitches above his eye but didn’t offer any further update.
Bjugstad was not among Florida’s traveling party to Newark, New Jersey’s Liberty Airport.
“He’s got an upper-body injury and is day-to-day,” Gallant said. “He was being evaluated and then we’ll see.”
With Bjugstad out, expect Vincent Trocheck to return to centering Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith on Florida’s second line.
Those three combined for 17 goals and 41 points in March before Trocheck was sidelined by a broken bone in his foot March 29.
Trocheck returned to the lineup Friday and said after the game he wasn’t sure he would play after missing almost a month, stating the decision wasn’t made until the pregame warmups.
Gallant sort of refuted that Saturday, saying the Panthers were banking on Trocheck playing.
“He was going to play, we knew before the warmups he was going to play,” Gallant said. “It was a matter of how he felt after the morning skate. When he got to the rink at 5, he was playing then.”
Trocheck wasn’t eased into the lineup by any stretch as he logged 31:24 — just eight seconds fewer than Reilly Smith for second-most among Florida forwards.
“For the first game back, I didn’t expect him to play the way he did or get the ice time he did,” Gallant said. “We evaluated him during the game, and he kept getting better and better so we let him go. He looked like he hadn’t missed any time at all.”
▪ Barkov became the third player to be awarded a penalty shot in a playoff overtime game and the first since 1998.
As was the case in the previous two chances, Barkov was stopped and the game continued. Jaromir Jagr has played in all three games in which the OT penalty shot was awarded.
Goalie Thomas Greiss was strong in net once again for the Islanders, stopping 47 shots as Florida took 96 attempts at the net — almost 30 more than the Islanders.
Florida rookie defenseman Michael Matheson led all players with six shots on goal.
“He has mostly been a backup in his career, he is getting a shot now, and he’s playing great hockey,” Brian Campbell said of Greiss. “We are doing a lot of good things right so we have to keep at it.”
▪ The Panthers have lost seven consecutive playoff games in overtime dating to 1996.
Friday’s game, which ended after midnight Saturday, went exactly 96 minutes and came in second to Florida’s 1-0 loss to the Avalanche in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals at Miami Arena, which lasted 104 minutes 31 seconds.
Sunday: Panthers at Islanders
When/where: 7 p.m.; Barclays Center, Brooklyn.
Series: Best-of-7; Islanders lead 3-2.
TV/radio: SUN, NBCSN; WQAM 560, WAVK 97.7, WMEN 640, WNMA 1210.
Regular-season series: This season: Florida won 2-1; All-time: Florida leads 43-36-8.
Scouting report: The Islanders have the chance to win their first playoff series since 1993 — the postseason before the Panthers played their first game — and earn a date with the Lightning in the semifinals. The two teams have split the four games played at Barclays this season.