Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers battle power-play slump

Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) passes against the Detroit Red Wings in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Friday, Dec. 12, 2014.
Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) passes against the Detroit Red Wings in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. AP

The Panthers had the league’s worst power-play unit in the NHL the past two seasons, so any improvement would be welcomed.

Florida has shown progress while playing with the man advantage under its new coaching staff, but lately things have soured.

Although much better than the previous two seasons, the Panthers haven’t done much with their more recent power-play opportunities.

In Friday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Red Wings, Florida went 0 for 5 on the power play, including a four-minute chance that didn’t create many chances.

“It gets a little scary when we don’t have a good power play in four minutes like we did [Friday] sometimes momentum changes,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said.

“Fortunately for us, they got a power play soon after, and we killed that one off, too. It can be scary against a team like Detroit in a 2-2 game. Our guys responded.’’

Since scoring a power-play goal in four consecutive games from Nov.11-18, the Panthers, who went 0 for 1 Saturday against Buffalo, have just two goals in their past 25 chances and haven’t scored a power-play goal in their past four games (0 for 10).

Florida, which had its worst power-play output in franchise history last seaons, goes into Monday again ranked near the bottom of the league as far as productivity goes.

The Panthers have 12 goals on 87 chances (13.8 percent), ranking them 25th. Last year, Florida scored just 27 goals in 269 chances (10 percent).

Gallant, who routinely works out the power-play units in practice, said “every team goes through” slumps on the power play, and it will come around with more work and players shooting more.

“When things are going bad as they have lately, you just have to start putting pucks at the net,’’ said Gallant, whose team is also ranked 25th as far as power-play opportunities go.

“We’re working hard 5-on-5, and we have to keep that same mentality. We need to work hard, get more pucks at the net.’’

MAKING A POINT

The Panthers retained their hold on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference despite losing Saturday night. Although Florida and Boston are tied with 32 points, the Panthers have played two fewer games, thereby holding the edge for the second wild-card spot.

All of this is moot, of course, since Florida will eventually play the same amount of games as Boston will and the two teams play each other three more times.

Still, the Panthers are in the conversation and looking to keep moving up the standings.

“We’re 28, 29 games into the season, but being in the playoffs is the goal,’’ Gallant said. “We have to stay close with the pack.’’

STREAKS END

Florida’s hottest offensive players found their scoring streaks come to a close during the Panthers’ latest back-to-back series this weekend.

Defenseman Aaron Ekblad had scored three goals with four assists over five consecutive games from Dec.1-8. He was held without a point Friday in Detroit.

Center Nick Bjugstad had four goals and three assists in the three games going into Buffalo, where he was held off the scoresheet.

Winger Tomas Flesichmann had two goals and three assists in four games before going scoreless in Buffalo.

Dave Bolland, meanwhile, has assists in each of his past two games. Bolland got his first point with the Panthers by assisting on Fleischmann’s goal in Detroit.

▪ The Panthers will hold an open practice Monday at the IceDen in Coral Springs starting at 11 a.m.

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