Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers try to cap perfect trip

Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant, center rear, argues a call with referee Dave Jackson (8) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015 in Sunrise, Fla.
Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant, center rear, argues a call with referee Dave Jackson (8) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015 in Sunrise, Fla. AP

The Panthers took Saturday off in New York City.

It was a much welcomed day away from hockey.

It was also much deserved.

The Panthers have won five games in a row and woke up Saturday holding the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“You want to keep it going; we’re playing well, obviously,” coach Gerard Gallant said after Friday’s 2-1 shootout victory over the Blue Jackets.

“The next one is a big one, and the last one is always the hardest one. We want to play well.”

Florida will be back at it on Sunday when the team drives to Newark, New Jersey, to face the Devils.

Sunday’s game is the finale of a five-game trip which has reignited the Panthers, as they have won the four previous games, winning at Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville and Columbus.

Florida’s five-game winning streak is its longest since 2013. A victory Sunday would not only give the Panthers their longest winning streak since 2008, it would set the franchise record for consecutive road wins with six.

The big thing is piling up points. Few would have dreamed the Panthers would have a chance to take all 10 points from this tough trip, yet with a win Sunday that’s exactly what they will do.

“We’ve been more responsible, and we’re treating these games like playoff games,” Jaromir Jagr said.

“We’re not just showing up, and I don’t think we’re good enough for that. Confidence is building. When you’re winning a few games in a row, you really start believing in yourself.”

Winning in Jersey won’t be easy for the Panthers, as the Devils give Florida more fits than just about any other team in the league.

The Devils haven’t lost at home to the Panthers since Game 3 of their opening-round playoff series in 2012.

Since then, New Jersey has won nine of 13 against Florida.

“We just have to play the same way we have been playing,” Jagr said. “This has been a tough schedule. We’ve played a lot of games.”

Of course, this trip has seen Florida win in places it usually does not.

The Panthers had lost their past six to the Blues before they won 3-1 on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Florida won in Nashville for the first time since 1999, and Friday’s win was just the Panthers’ third in Columbus.

“We just don’t want to lose anymore,” Jonathan Huberdeau said. “We want to finish it with a win. We’re going to get a day off, get a little bit of rest. We need to be ready as we’ve been against New Jersey.”

▪ Al Montoya had another strong start for the Panthers on Friday, although they hadn’t seen one in a while.

Montoya was injured during his previous start on Nov. 23, so Friday’s start was his first full game in a month.

“Every game is an opportunity for me,” he said. “I’m excited where this team is going.”

Montoya made 22 saves in Friday’s win, not including three in the four-round shootout.

“He’s worked extremely hard,” goalie coach Robb Tallas said.

“He was excited to play and deserved to play. This was a big win for us, and we needed a strong performance in goal. Montoya gave it to us. You can see this team coming together.”

▪ Defense has been key during Florida’s five-game winning streak.

Although the Panthers have scored just 10 goals (not counting shootouts) in those games, they’ve only given up six.

“We’ve had good goaltending, good defense,” Jagr said.

“We’re not making many risky plays; we’re playing safer than we did in the first 20 games.”

Sunday: Panthers at Devils

When/where: 7 p.m.; Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560; WMEN 640; WNMA 1210.

Series: New Jersey leads 51-28-7.

Scouting report: The Devils have lost four of their past six, including a 4-3 overtime setback against the Flyers on Friday. … Florida is aiming for a franchise-record sixth road victory in a row, a streak that began Nov. 14 at Tampa Bay.

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