Florida Panthers

‘I think we gave away some points.’ Panthers’ homestand ends with disappointing defeat

New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes #13 puts a shot on net against Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo #1 during the shootout of an NHL regular season hockey game at the BB&T Center on Saturday, December 8, 2018 in Sunrise.
New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes #13 puts a shot on net against Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo #1 during the shootout of an NHL regular season hockey game at the BB&T Center on Saturday, December 8, 2018 in Sunrise. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Entertaining, exhilarating, disappointing — the Panthers’ 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Rangers late Saturday night was all of that and more.

The Panthers earned one point to complete a 3-2-3 homestand. Through 28 games, the Panthers are 14th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference standings, just three points out of the cellar.

“I think we gave away some points,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said of the homestand during which his team earned nine of a possible 16 points. “It could’ve easily been 12, 13 or 14 [points].”

The Panthers are 1-3 in shootouts this season, which doesn’t compute given the top-end individual talent on the team.

Here are more takeaways on the Panthers as they prepare to play at the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday and the Minnesota Wild on Thursday:

Secondary scoring needed: After the Rangers game, Boughner called for more balance.

“It’s a good group of guys,” Boughner said. “The only problem I have is that it’s the same four or five guys scoring every night. We need some depth.”

Jonathan Huberdeau, who has seven consecutive multi-point games, leads the Panthers with 34 points. Mike Hoffman leads the team with 14 goals. Evgenii Dadonov and power-play quarterback Keith Yandle (28 points each) and Barkov (27 points) are also among the “four or five guys” Boughner was referring to with his comments.

Second-line center Vincent Trocheck, who scored 54 goals the past two seasons and was an All-Star in 2017, is out with a fractured ankle, putting even more stress on Florida’s secondary scoring.

Nick Bjugstad, who sat out Saturday’s game because of a lower-body injury, has just 10 points in 27 games despite ample opportunities on the top two lines. He is one of those players who needs to provide more, but there are certainly others.

Troy Brouwer, who has six goals and one assist in 27 games, missed off the post in overtime on Saturday, the type of bad break that needs to turn around for the Panthers to make a run.

Start strong, finish strong: The Panthers have scored 42 goals in the second period, tied for third-most in the NHL this season. But they have just 27 goals in the first and 20 in the third.

On Saturday, the Panthers fell behind 2-0 after another dreary start. Boughner let his team have it in between periods, and he also took Hoffman off the top line, replacing him with Dadonov, who joined Barkov and Huberdeau.

Less than five minutes later, the Panthers had tied the score 2-2.

“It was a gut check,” Boughner said of his between-periods speech. “I called on the leaders. I called on everybody. It wasn’t about Xs and Os. We had to match the urgency. We talked about winning the period and getting momentum back on our side.”

The Panthers certainly did that, holding the Rangers to a total of just 10 shots on goal for the final 40 minutes of regulation. In fact, the Rangers went nearly 15 minutes (14:33) without one shot on goal.

Special teams, plus and minus: Florida scored twice on its power play and has at least one goal with a man advantage in 18 of its past 19 games. Yandle had one goal and one assist with the man advantage. He entered the game tied for first in the NHL in power-play points.

The Panthers are also tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning with the most power-play goals in the league (31). On the negative side, the Panthers allowed their seventh shorthanded goal of the season. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins, with eight, have allowed more.

On the shorthanded goal allowed on Saturday, New York’s Kevin Hayes hustled after the puck in the left corner of the Panthers’ zone, shielding off Aleksander Barkov. Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad gambled by trying to get the puck from Hayes, leaving the front of the net open. Hayes then delivered a pass to Vladislav Namestnikov in the vacated spot, and the result was a rather easy goal and Florida’s biggest blunder of the night.

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