The Florida Panthers' captain Derek MacKenzie talks about loss at home
The team that couldn’t lose on the road now cannot buy a win at home.
If the Florida Panthers miss out on the playoffs, feel free to look back at this point in the season as a big reason why.
On Sunday night, the Ottawa Senators were not only the latest team to escape Sunrise with a win, but their 2-1 victory helped distance themselves from Florida in the Atlantic Division standings.
The Panthers have lost their past three — all at home — since going 5-0 on a road trip for the first time in franchise history.
“We still have 21 games left, and we just have to stay positive,” Jaromir Jagr said. “We had a big road trip and then came back and just ... we have had some tough bounces, had great chances in all three games.
“We have to stay positive. We’re still not far behind. Three, four points with 21 games left? There’s a lot of points left for us.”
Florida is again six points back of the Senators for second in the Atlantic and four behind Boston for the postseason spot that comes with finishing third in the division.
The Panthers, who have lost their past four at home dating to a game against Los Angeles on Feb. 9, are three behind Toronto for the second and final wild-card playoff spot.
“After that road trip, we’re disappointed with the result of the past few games,” captain Derek MacKenzie said in a somber locker room, which got a lift with a visit from energetic owner Vinnie Viola.
“We’re not going to give up; we’re coming to the rink [Monday] and we’re getting back to work.”
Ottawa took a 1-0 lead on goalie James Reimer and the Panthers on a short-handed chance at 6:28 of the opening period when a bunch of Florida skaters fought for the puck along the far wall, only it popped out to Erik Karlsson.
The Ottawa defenseman and Zack Smith sped up the ice on a 2-on-1 chance, with Smith beating Reimer off a rebound from Karlsson’s heavy shot.
Florida tied the score late in the first as Keith Yandle and Jonathan Huberdeau showed off some pretty passing and found Jonathan Marchessault in the left circle, where he picked up his 19th goal of the season against former Florida goalie and current west Broward resident Craig Anderson.
But Ottawa regained the lead in the second on a Kyle Turris goal midway through the period, as he beat Reimer with a nice snap shot.
Florida was robbed of a game-tying goal moments later when Reilly Smith fired a shot from point-blank range, only to have Anderson snag it out of the air with his mitt.
“We had 74 attempted shots; we gave everything we could and they stuck up for one another,” said interim coach and GM Tom Rowe, noting the five charged roughing or fighting incidents.
“If we play like that, we’ll win a lot more.”