After dropping five straight games, the Panthers were in desperate need of a win Tuesday night.
Florida’s losing streak dated to Jaromir Jagr’s first game out of the lineup due to injury. It’s probably no coincidence the slide came to an end with the reemergence of Jagr on the scoresheet.
Jagr scored what was the go-ahead and game-winning goal midway through the third period, leading the Panthers to a hard-fought 4-3 win at BB&T Center.
Before Jagr fed Aaron Ekblad with a sweet cross-ice pass for Florida’s third goal of the night, Jagr hadn’t registered a point in over two weeks.
“I’m glad we won because sometimes when you’ve lost five straight, things snowball,” said Jagr, who gave the Panthers a 4-3 lead with his first goal since Oct. 24 in Dallas.
“Everyone was looking for the first one; now we have to make sure we get the next one and the next one to get back in the race.”
Florida, which had been winless in five with two points taken away from the losses, wasn’t very happy with just winning a game.
Afterward, the team held a lengthy closed-door meeting to talk about their shortcomings of late.
Winning, goalie Roberto Luongo said, is great, but Florida won’t get many more playing like that.
“We have some tough tests ahead, and we need to play better if we want to win,” said Luongo, who made 25 saves.
“We didn’t play our best hockey, and fortunately, we didn’t pay for it. Different circumstances, and we probably don’t win. We’re happy with the win, no doubt, but we need to be better.“
The Panthers jumped all over Calgary goalie Karri Ramo and took a 3-1 lead early in the second off Ekblad’s easy (thanks to Jagr) goal.
The Flames, a second-round playoff team in a rough Western Conference last year, battled back and scored back-to-back goals to tie the score going into the third.
“We made some mistakes that cost us a 3-1 lead, but overall, we played pretty well,” coach Gerard Gallant said.
Said Jagr: “That was a strange game. Two of the goals, we gave them.“
The Panthers started putting the heat back on the Flames in the third and retook the lead when Jagr pulled the puck in as he slipped through the slot and slid a shot that found its way past Ramo.
“We need that from our guys,” Gallant said. “It wasn’t a perfect game, but one we fought for and really needed.”
The Panthers, who hadn’t beaten the Flames in Sunrise since 2011, kicked off a stretch of eight consecutive games either at home or in Tampa.
Florida needs to pick up quite a few of those 16 available points to stay in the playoff conversation.
“We won, and that’s a good thing, but we don’t feel like we played our best,” Jagr said. “Those seven home games, we need to play our best hockey and put some wins together. We should play a little better.“
▪ To commemorate Veterans Day, the Panthers wore and later auctioned off camouflage jerseys during warmups, as well as honored retired U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Raymond T. Odierno.
Odierno, who retired in August, spoke to the Panthers in their locker room following morning skate and dropped the ceremonial first puck prior to the game.
The team also made a $50,000 donation to veterans charity Operation Lift Hope during the game.
▪ Connor Brickley was sent to Florida’s AHL affiliate in Portland, Maine, after being a healthy scratch in three straight games.