Florida Panthers

Panthers lose first game of road trip to Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes' Derek Ryan (33) celebrates his goal with teammate Noah Hanifin (5) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 27, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. The Hurricanes won 3-2.
Carolina Hurricanes' Derek Ryan (33) celebrates his goal with teammate Noah Hanifin (5) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 27, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. The Hurricanes won 3-2. AP

It’s going to be a long trip for the Florida Panthers anyway, and they will have to do it without coach Gerard Gallant, who was fired Sunday night.

Barely a four-minute stretch ruined the first part of it Sunday night.

The Panthers broke down across a  3 1/2minute span in the second period in a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.

“We played 55 good minutes [Sunday night], but it wasn’t enough,” said Gallant, who learned he was canned after the game and will be replaced by general manager Tom Rowe. “You can’t have those letdowns in a game, and it killed us [Sunday night].”

It was the start of a season-long six-game road swing for the Panthers (11-10-1), who lost for the second time in three games.

“You can’t let up. We’ve talked about it all year, playing a 60-minute game,” center Vincent Trocheck said. “That’s a prime example of letting up for five minutes, and it cost us the game.”

It many ways it was a typically good start to a game for the Panthers, who’ve led after the first period in 11 of their 23 games. But they’ve lost in four of them, with the 2-0 lead vanishing on their only trip of the season to Carolina.

Goals from Jonathan Marchessault and Aaron Ekblad in the game’s opening 10 minutes were fodder for something good.

It was so fluid for Florida that the Panthers put up 16 shots on goal in the first period after posting only 23 shots a night earlier in what became a 2-1 shootout victory against Columbus.

Then poof.

The Hurricanes scored on goals from Viktor Stalberg, Jeff Skinner and Derek Ryan, whose go-ahead marker was his first goal of the season in his eight games.

All that happened in 3:28 against goalie James Reimer, who stopped 24 shots in the game.

“It was just kind of not doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Trocheck said.

The Hurricanes won their fifth home game in a row, though they were coming off a 1-2-0 road trip in Canada.

The victory went to goalie Michael Leighton, who hadn’t won an NHL game since December 2010 with the Philadelphia Flyers. He made his first NHL start since Jan. 27, 2013, filling in for Cam Ward, who was in the net for the nine previous games.

Center Aleksander Barkov had assists on both Florida first-period goals.

Marchessault’s goal ended Carolina’s streak of killing off 25 consecutive power plays.

Florida failed to come through on the next three power plays, including when Leighton denied Ekblad’s backdoor attempt.

Carolina began its comeback when defenseman Matt Tennyson delivered a pass from behind the net to Stalberg, who slid the puck between Reimer’s pads.

Skinner scored the next one on a breakaway, with Ekblad, a defenseman, unable to chase him down. Skinner got loose again, drawing a penalty on defenseman Jason Demers that led to Carolina’s power play for the winning goal.

Trocheck was disturbed by the lack of execution in the first and third periods as well because he figured there were too many wasted opportunities.

“I thought we dominated the first and third,” he said. “We got chances. That’s on us, the forwards, we’ve got to score when we’ve got chances like that.”

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