Florida Panthers

Tough Canadian travels add insult to injury for Florida Panthers

Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad celebrates the game-tying goal in what would end up becoming a 6-1 loss to the host Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad celebrates the game-tying goal in what would end up becoming a 6-1 loss to the host Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. AP

A bad night for the Florida Panthers only got worse on Friday morning.

After losing 6-1 to the host Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, the team boarded their charter flight for a quick trip to Ottawa.

Heavy fog in the area left the plane circling the Canadian capital city with coach Gerard Gallant saying the plane didn’t touch down until after 5 a.m.

Because of the late night/early morning, Gallant cancelled Florida’s afternoon practice at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Center in suburban Kanata.

Hard to blame the Panthers for wanting to put their trip to Toronto behind them.

"We made a lot of bad mistakes, gave up a lot of breakaways and looked like we were a step behind the whole night," said Gallant, who said the Panthers didn’t get to their hotel near the arena until 6:30 a.m. on Friday.

"You have to give Toronto some credit; they have a young team and they’re playing real hard. They cashed in on all their chances. We were on the wrong side of the puck all night. It wasn’t much fun."

The Panthers were behind things from the start Thursday as the host Leafs jumped to a 1-0 lead before Aaron Ekblad tied it with midway through the opening period.

That was as close as the Panthers got to the Leafs, however, as Toronto scored two more goals before the first period ended and then scored twice in the second to take a 5-1 lead into the second intermission.

Florida goalie James Reimer, who spent part of six seasons with the Leafs, gave up all six goals on XX shots by the Leafs – who are 2-0 against the Panthers on home ice this season.

"We’ll be better next time," Reimer said afterward. "These points are big, and it’s unfortunate to give them up. But, it’s one game in a long season."

▪ Defenseman Dylan McIlrath made his Florida debut on Thursday after Alex Petrovic was injured blocking a shot Tuesday in Montreal.

Petrovic was placed on injured reserve on Thursday and sent back to South Florida to be checked out by team doctors. Florida recalled Jakub Kindl from its AHL affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts. McIlrath came to the Panthers in a deal with the Rangers for Steven Kampfer earlier this month.

"We don’t think it’s anything long term," Gallant said of Petrovic. "It swelled up on him after Tuesday’s game so we sent him home for an MRI to make sure everything is OK."

▪ Former Panthers goalie Craig Anderson was back at Ottawa’s practice on Friday morning after taking another leave of absence from the team as his wife Nicholle battles a type of throat cancer.

Nicholle Anderson has started treatments in New York according to a statement put out by the couple.

"Many people have approached us about asking how they can support us during this challenging time," the statement read. "We simply ask for your thoughts and well wishes and that those who choose to, continue to support their local Cancer Society for research on how to cure this disease."

Anderson played for the Panthers from 2006-09 and still resides in South Florida with his family during the offseason.

Saturday: Panthers at Senators

When/where: 7 p.m.; Canadian Tire Center, Ottawa.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640.

Series: Ottawa leads 50-35-3

Scouting report: The Senators have dropped two of their past three home games including 5-1 to Nashville on Thursday. The Panthers are also coming off a blowout loss after getting beat 6-1 by the host Leafs. Florida has won at least one of two games held in Ottawa over the past three seasons.

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