The Panthers wanted to go into the All-Star break on a wave of momentum yet instead ride a downward spiral after losing their fourth in a row Monday, this one 2-1 to the visiting Vancouver Canucks.
Remember that franchise-best 4-2-0 road trip earlier this month?
Might as well have been last season.
“We’re going to need a big effort in February,” defenseman Brian Campbell said. “We’ve given away quite a few points. We can’t give up any more.”
Florida, which doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, lost the finale of that season-long trip 8-2 in Winnipeg and hasn’t been completely right since.
The Panthers have lost five in a row at home dating to a shootout loss to Montreal on Dec.30.
The four-game slide (at Winnipeg and home games to Colorado, Edmonton and Vancouver) is Florida’s longest of the season.
Before Sunday, the Panthers hadn’t lost three in a row all year.
“You can feel we lost a little bit of jam as a team in the past week or so,” said goalie Roberto Luongo, who is Florida’s lone representative at this weekend’s All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.
“It’s good for the guys to get this week off to recharge and refresh a little bit and come back with a fresh mind-set. We have to attack the second half of the season. That’s huge for us.”
Vancouver, which lost to the Panthers and Luongo at home on Jan.8, jumped all over Florida in the rematch.
The Canucks took their first lead 3:25 in and got the eventual game winner with more than 10 minutes left in the first on Bo Horvat’s breakaway shot that trickled past Luongo.
“They took it to us in that first period,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “It probably should have been 5-0, but Louie kept us in there. We played better in the second and I thought real well in the third. It was just a little too late.”
Goalie Ryan Miller, who gave up three to the Panthers in Vancouver, went more than three hours of game time before being scored on again.
Miller didn’t play in the Canucks’ following two games after the Florida loss then rolled shutouts in his following starts against Philadelphia and Carolina.
Miller’s shutout streak ended with 2:32 left when Brandon Pirri — in the lineup after a three-game absence — scored on a faceoff won by Dave Bolland.
Although the Panthers made an all-out attack to tie the score in the final minutes, Miller was too much.
Wanting to get Pirri and Vincent Trocheck into the lineup, Gallant put a pair of veteran forwards on the bench Monday in Scottie Upshall and Sean Bergenheim.
Both seemed puzzled why they didn’t play.
Bergenheim had goals in consecutive games at Calgary and Edmonton on the previous road trip; Upshall, however, has one assist in his past 10 games.
“All I can do is play as good as I can play,” Bergenheim said. “I’ve had less ice time than before, and with that in mind, I’m happy with the way I’ve played. I can only look at what I’ve brought to the team. I can’t hang my head. I honestly don’t know what’s going on.”
Said Upshall: “We have numbers and coach had to make a hard decision. It makes everyone accountable. When you are in a little skid like we have been, changes will be made.”
▪ The Panthers next practice isn’t until Monday following All-Star Weekend in Columbus. Luongo will be playing in Sunday’s game with rookie Aaron Ekblad going and participating in Saturday’s skills competition.