Florida Panthers

Losing skid at three as Panthers fall to Calgary Flames

<cutline_leadin>scoring not a problem: </cutline_leadin>The Panthers’ Jimmy Hayes, left, celebrates with teammate Scottie Upshall after a second-period goal in Saturday’s losing cause.
<cutline_leadin>scoring not a problem: </cutline_leadin>The Panthers’ Jimmy Hayes, left, celebrates with teammate Scottie Upshall after a second-period goal in Saturday’s losing cause. AP

For only the second time this season, the Panthers scored four goals in a game.

It was in vain.

Calgary scored three goals in the third period and continued its successful road trip Saturday afternoon by beating the Panthers 6-4 at BB&T Center.

The Panthers, who beat Colorado 4-3 in overtime on Oct.21, have lost three in a row and have been outscored 10-5 in their past two games.

“That was a horse [expletive] game by us,” said captain Willie Mitchell, who fanned on a shot late in the third that led to Calgary’s empty-net goal with 1:05 left.

“It’s not our [style of] game. We’re too young a hockey club, and as you evolve maybe you can play more offensive. The best teams in the league don’t play in 6-4 shootouts. That’s not how it’s done. The teams that win Cups play good [defense], give yourself a chance. … I sure hope we learned our lesson. Maybe it’s because we were all in shock we scored three or four goals.”

Florida gave a rare start to backup goalie Al Montoya and did give him plenty of goal support.

The Panthers led 2-0 early in the second period, but the Flames — now 3-1 on their five-game trip that wraps up Tuesday at Carolina — kept coming.

Florida led 3-1 midway through the second after Scottie Upshall scored his second of the game, but Calgary scored twice in a three-minute span to tie the score.

Florida took a 4-3 lead into the third after Jimmy Hayes deflected a shot from Upshall — who was originally credited with the hat trick — and put it past starter Karri Ramo.

The Flames pulled Ramo in favor of Jonas Hiller, and Florida’s offensive outburst was over. The rest of the scoring belonged to the visitors.

Hiller faced one shot during his 6 minutes 29 seconds in the second and stopped all eight shots he faced in the third.

“It wasn’t our best,” Upshall said. “We had a good stretch of holding teams to one or two goals, and we scored four. We let off our defensive game, which is a sign we weren’t ready to play the full 60 minutes. I thought we were soft in some areas.”

Montoya, making his first home start and second in 12 games, stopped only 19 of the 24 shots he faced. But Florida’s defense did him few favors.

Calgary’s second goal, which made it 3-2, came on a Florida power play, and Montoya had no way to stop it as he was run over by Lance Bouma and was still on the ice as Mark Giordano flipped the puck into a vacated net.

The goal that tied the game at 4-4 came on a slick pass from Johnny Gaudreau that split defenders Aaron Ekblad and Brian Campbell. Sean Monahan put it in the back of the net at the 4:53 mark of the third.

Montoya would likely love another chance at the soft shot Jiri Hudler took to tie the score at 3, as the puck fluttered over his shoulder.

“We gave up a lot of goals, and it’s too bad we score four and can’t win the game,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We weren’t good enough. We didn’t compete enough on defense and gave them a lot of chances. It wasn’t good enough.”

This and that

▪ The Panthers lost Dmitry Kulikov to an apparent knee injury on Calgary’s shorthanded goal in the second period. Kulikov was clipped in the knee by a Calgary player, left and didn’t return. Gallant didn’t know the extent of Kulikov’s injury, but Florida has a seventh defenseman in Colby Robak who could play Tuesday.

▪ With Jonathan Huberdeau back from an illness, Gallant had to sit one of his forwards and decided to sit veteran Tomas Fleischmann, who has zero goals and one assist this season. Rookie Rocco Grimaldi, who made his debut a week ago Saturday, was up on Florida’s top line.

“We can only play 20, and he was the odd man out,” said Gallant of Fleischmann. “We wanted to give the younger guys a chance, and they played well. I don’t like benching a veteran guy, but he was just a number.”

▪ Down 5-4, the Panthers were hamstrung as Jussi Jokinen was called for embellishing a hook by T.J. Brodie with 1:28 left. Instead of attacking with six skaters (Montoya left the net empty moments before), the Panthers were forced to kill a penalty. Gaudreau scored the empty-net goal with 1:05 left to end any hope the Panthers had.

“The guy hooked me, and I lost my balance,” Jokinen said. “I guess the ref saw something different. It’s disappointing.”

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