Florida Panthers

Wild jumps on sluggish Panthers early

The Wild’s Erik Haula skates away with the puck after teammate Keith Ballard checks the Panthers’ Sean Bergenheim into the boards.
The Wild’s Erik Haula skates away with the puck after teammate Keith Ballard checks the Panthers’ Sean Bergenheim into the boards. Getty Images

The Panthers wanted to take advantage of their recent road success, but they fell flat at home Monday night.

Minnesota jumped all over the sluggish Panthers in the opening period and left BB&T Center with a 4-1 victory.

“They came out ready to play, and we were lifeless in those first couple of periods,” said Minneapolis native Nick Bjugstad, whose four-game scoring streak (five goals, three assist) was snapped. “We showed a little but not enough. Those guys are too good for us not to bear down on them. We didn’t play the way we wanted.”

Although the Wild hasn’t been very good on the road this season, the Panthers have even worse in Sunrise.

The Wild came into the night ranked 23rd in the league with eight road points; the Panthers were tied for 29th with just seven points at home.

On Monday, Minnesota apparently shook off its beach rust — the Wild brought a large contingent of family members on this Florida swing — and took control early.

Jason Zucker got the first of his two goals six minutes in when his soft shot trickled between Roberto Luongo’s skates.

With 2:17 left in the period, Nino Niederreiter made it 2-0 when he broke free off a Willie Mitchell turnover at center ice and roofed a shot past Luongo.

“We had a ‘C’ performance, and that’s not good enough,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We got outworked in the first two periods and that’s disappointing.

“I know the guys are disappointed because we had a good road trip. This happens a lot when you come off the road, but no excuses for this. We have to be a lot better.”

Although the Panthers were finally able to get some of their injured forwards back in the lineup, they created little offensive push — at least in the opening two periods.

Florida was held to just five shots on goal and 10 shots attempted (blocked, missed and shots on goal) in the first. The Panthers had 14 shots heading into the third.

The Panthers scored 5:34 into the second when Shawn Thornton knocked down a long shot from Dmitry Kulikov and deflected it past Nik Backstrom.

Referee Ghislain Hebert originally waved off the goal thinking Thornton’s stick came above the crossbar. The officials conferred and ruled Thornton made a legal move and a long review from Hockey Central in Toronto confirmed the good goal.

The Wild took its two-goal lead back late in the second when Zucker — who had nine shots on goal in the first two periods — took advantage of a lax Florida defense and scored top shelf on Luongo.

The Panthers had a few good scoring chances after that, including Brad Boyes with 90 seconds left, but Backstrom picked up his second win this month with an easy-looking 29-save night.

Minnesota got its final goal from Zach Parise into an empty net.

“We’re a young team, and we’re going to make mistakes,” Luongo said. “It’s my job to bail us out when that happens. I didn’t in the first period, and it cost us the game.”

STREAK ENDS

St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester saw his NHL “Iron Man” streak come to a close at 737 consecutive games Sunday as the former Panther wasn’t in the Blues’ lineup in Winnipeg.

Bouwmeester’s streak started on March 6, 2004, with Florida, and he ended up playing in nine consecutive full seasons before sitting out Sunday with a lower-body injury.

Bouwmeester’s streak is fifth-longest in NHL history; Doug Jarvis holds the record at 964 consecutive games played. Bouwmeester, the third overall pick of the 2002 draft by Florida, played with the Panthers from 2002-09.

“It was pretty cut and dry, I knew I couldn’t play,” Bouwmeester told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I’ve been pretty lucky for a long time.”

Bouwmeester missed 21 games in Florida during the 2003-04 season with a broken foot before starting his streak. Bouwmeester played in all 82 games as a rookie with the Panthers in 2002-03.

▪ Forwards Brandon Pirri, Scottie Upshall and Sean Bergenheim all rejoined the lineup after missing time with injury.

Florida benched Tomas Fleischmann and Vinny Trocheck to make room. Colby Robak also replaced Dylan Olsen on defense for the first time this season.

▪ Jacques Martin, Florida’s coach and/or general manager from 2005-09, attended Tuesday’s game as a scout for the Penguins.

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