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Florida Panthers play solid but lose again to Carolina Hurricanes

Everything came with a “but” for the Panthers in a 3-2 loss Sunday in Sunrise against Carolina.

They called up rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom, but … his equipment didn’t arrive until the first period. Without even a pregame warmup, playing Markstrom would have been playing muscle-pull roulette.

The Panthers got better play out of goalie Scott Clemmensen, but … he gave up the eventual game-winner on a near-whiff by Carolina’s Jordan Staal.

The Panthers controlled extended stretches of play in each period and fired 36 shots at Carolina’s goalies, but … beat Cam Ward and backup Dan Ellis only with two Jonathan Huberdeau finishes of Peter Mueller cross-zone passes. And defensive breakdowns handed Carolina the second of two late first-period goals that changed the game’s tenor.

This weekend’s two-game set could have shot the Panthers up the standings. Instead of catching Carolina atop the Southeast Division, the Panthers stay stuck on 17 points, last in the Eastern Conference.

“[Ticks] you off. Expect better out of my teammates, myself, everybody,” Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said. “It’s not acceptable. It’s not going to be a fun place to be if you’re not winning.”

The Panthers certainly began Sunday’s game with more giddyup than they did in Saturday night’s 6-2 loss in Carolina. In the first three minutes at BB&T Center, Ward stoned Huberdeau and, on a two-on-one with George Parros, Jerred Smithson.

With two minutes left in the period, the Panthers had outshot Carolina 12-7 in a scoreless game. The Panthers would end the period with a 12-9 shot advantage and down 2-0.

After a flurry around the net, the puck got pushed through the right circle and Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk didn’t dillydally with subtlety. Faulk’s blast through traffic found the inside of the far post at 18:08 of the first and the Panthers were down 1-0.

On a two-on-two the following shift, Carolina’s Alexander Semin dropped to Eric Staal, whose puck skills apparently hypnotized Campbell and Eric Gudbranson. Neither picked up Semin cruising around and behind them. Staal fed Semin, who slickly beat Clemmensen with 51.7 seconds left in the first.

“We played a good first 18 minutes, and we didn’t finish it off,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said.

Jordan Staal potted Jeff Skinner’s centering pass in the second period with a mishit that gave the puck just enough propulsion to go off the inside of Clemmensen’s right pad and over the goal line.

“I didn’t see that one,” Clemmensen said. “Skinner came around the net and I lost him and everything in the traffic in front. I think he slid it across. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened on that one.”

Huberdeau, on the Panthers’ best line of the night with Drew Shore and Mueller, answered on a three-on-two. From the right boards, Mueller made a beautiful pass onto Huberdeau’s track as the latter drove the left post: 3-1 at 16:55 of the second.

The second goal and Huberdeau’s 10th of the season, a slam dunk at the right post with 54.6 seconds left, finished a Mueller feed from the left boards as Ellis scrambled to reset himself after stopping Campbell a one-on-one.

Injury report

Panthers assistant general manager Mike Santos said he didn’t know anything more about either goalie Jose Theodore’s injury or defenseman Dimitri Kulikov’s injury from Saturday as team doctors hadn’t examined either yet.

A Panthers source said Theodore didn’t tear knee ligaments in Saturday’s loss to Carolina. RDS, the French-language arm of TSN, Canada’s ESPN, reported that Theodore sustained a torn groin.

The injuries prompted the recall of goalie Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Nolan Yonkman from San Antonio. Markstrom didn’t start the game as the Panthers backup, nor did he work warmups. Those tasks fell to Panthers goalie coach and unretired-for-one-day Robb Tallas.

According to Santos, United Airlines didn’t put Markstrom’s equipment on the flight his San Antonio to Fort Lauderdale flight. So, under new emergency-goalie rules, the Panthers are allowed to sign an amateur or former pro to a one-day tryout form.

When Markstrom’s equipment arrived late in the first period, the emergency-goalie rules allowed him to replace Tallas on the bench with just over three minutes left.

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