The Florida Panthers saw their five-game winning streak end on Wednesday night, a wet blanket thrown onto the momentum gained by sweeping a long road trip for the first time in franchise history.
Yet the 4-3 loss to the visiting Edmonton Oilers did little to tamper Florida’s resolve.
The five-game streak, and winning eight of nine, helped the Panthers crawl back into the playoff race in a muddled Eastern Conference.
They plan on making their presence known.
“We’re going to be there,” coach Tom Rowe said of the postseason.
Florida is one of a handful of teams jockeying for playoff position in the east with the Panthers now realistically thinking about challenging Montreal’s season-long stranglehold atop the Atlantic Division.
The Panthers came into Thursday’s light workout at BB&T Center tied with the New York Islanders for the second wild card spot in the east along with Boston.
Florida was six points back of the Canadiens for first and four behind Ottawa — which visits Sunrise on Sunday night — for second in the division.
Although the Panthers failed to pick up a point against the Oilers, the Bruins also came up empty on the west coast as their four-game winning streak under new coach Bruce Cassidy ended as the Anaheim Ducks scored two late goals and won 5-3.
“Boston probably loved seeing that we didn’t get any points,” Rowe said, “and we loved that they didn’t get any. This thing is going to go down to the wire and we have to be ready. Which we will be.”
The Panthers won’t be going on the road much for the next few weeks with Wednesday’s game kicking off a four-game homestand.
After a quick trip to Philadelphia — which coincides with the NHL trade deadline — the Panthers come back for three more at home.
With seven of the next nine games on home ice (with one-game trips to Philly and Tampa splitting them up) the Panthers know finding success in Sunrise will be crucial to their postseason hopes.
“I think it’s time for us to be good at home,” said Jonathan Marchessault, whose team has won 14 of 28 at home and has dropped its past two.
“We have a few games here and we really need to get on a roll here. Every game is important and tomorrow is another day. We need to be better here. We want to be in the playoffs, and in the playoffs, home ice is important.”
On Wednesday, Edmonton took the lead three different times with the Panthers answering each time until Kris Russell scored in the third with the game-winner.
Rowe said his team made a few fixable mistakes but was overall pleased with the effort coming off the long road trip which started in the Central Time Zone in Nashville before three games in California and a finale in St. Louis.
“Coming off a road trip you don’t want to make excuses, but we just weren’t as sharp as we were on the road,” said Keith Yandle, who had two assists Wednesday to notch his 400th NHL point.
“The good news is we get to come back Friday and redeem ourselves. The effort and the push in this group, you can never doubt that.
“We have a hardworking group. We have guys that want to win every game. It’s a pleasure to be a part of a group like that. You can never question that about our team.”
Added Rowe: “There’s a lot of good stuff going on here. One game’s not going to get us off track.”
Vincent Trocheck left Wednesday’s game after an attempted hit on Jordan Eberle but returned for the start of the third.
Trocheck, who scored the game-winning goal in the final seconds in St. Louis and leads the Panthers in goals and points, says he is fine and is excited about what’s ahead for his team.
“That road trip was awesome for us,” he said. “We found our mojo, got back into the mix here. We have some confidence and are ready to keep going.”
FRIDAY: FLAMES AT PANTHERS
▪ When, where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
▪ TV/Radio: FSFL; WQAM 560, WMEN 640, WMYM 990.
▪ Series: Calgary leads 16-11-3.
▪ Scouting report: This is the second and final meeting this season with the Flames winning 5-2 at the Saddledome last month. As was the case with Edmonton, Calgary visits Tampa Bay the night before playing the Panthers.