Florida Panthers

Despite tough stretch, Florida’s offense clicking. And now Panthers get a needed rest

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Louis Domingue (70) defends against Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad (27) during the second period.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Louis Domingue (70) defends against Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad (27) during the second period. AP

This was almost a great 24 hours for the Florida Panthers.

The Panthers had two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference standings land on their home schedule this weekend, and they beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in overtime on Friday and led the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Saturday.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Lightning scored four straight goals and prevailed 5-4 in overtime.

Brayden Point scored on a power play with 1:48 left in the extra session for Tampa Bay, but only after an interference call on Frank Vatrano gave the Lightning the man advantage.

“We know [Tampa Bay] is a good team, but we can’t let a lead like that go,” said Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau, who has six goals and 22 assists this season. “It was unfortunate, I think, the call in overtime.”

Huberdeau said he didn’t see what Vatrano did to get sent off.

“It’s hockey — it happens,” he said. “But it [stinks] to get a penalty in overtime.”

Here are four takeaways regarding the Panthers:

1: Closer needed: The Panthers have given up leads in each of their past three losses. Aside from Tampa Bay, they lost a 2-1 lead to the Anaheim Ducks, and they lost 2-0 and 4-2 leads to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Panthers coach Bob Boughner said Saturday’s loss was especially bitter.

“We were in full control,” he said. “We took a penalty in the [defensive] zone. Then we took a penalty 150 feet from our net in the neutral zone. It’s one thing we talked about — you can’t give [the Lightning] opportunities.”

2: Streak needed: The Panthers (10-10-5) haven’t won consecutive games all season except for a five-game win streak from Nov. 2-13.

The Panthers have just three more home games in this eight-contest stretch: the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and the New York Rangers on Saturday. This would be a good time for the Panthers to start a win streak if they want to try to move up the standings.

3: Luck needed: Panthers goalie James Reimer gave up the tying goal Saturday on a fluke. Reimer stopped the original shot, but the rebound bounced in off the skates of Panthers forward Dryden Hunt.

Of the other four goals, two came on Tampa Bay power plays and another was the result of an ill-timed line change.

4: Rest needed: With no game Sunday or Monday, it’s the Panthers’ biggest break since they got back from Finland one month ago.

“It was our fifth game in eight days,” Boughner said of Saturday’s loss to the Lightning. “We started the week with a back to back, and we ended the week with a back to back. You could tell our tank was a little bit empty toward the end.”

5: Offense, don’t change a thing: Once the Panthers get back on the ice against the Bruins, they hope their offense continues to click, including a power play that has scored in 14 of their past 15 games.

Vatrano, Aleksander Barkov, Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadoov scored for the Panthers on Saturday, and Keith Yandle reached a milestone with career assist No. 400.

Huberdeau has a five-game, multi-point streak, and, during that run, he has two goals and nine assists.

Mike Hoffman had one assist against Tampa Bay, and he has 24 points in his past 23 games.

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