Jaromir Jagr sat at his locker stall Sunday night not wanting to talk about the Panthers’ recent five-game winning streak — especially so soon after it ended.
“Sometimes you win games you should lose and sometimes it goes the other way around,’’ Jagr said after New Jersey topped a hard-charging Florida team 4-2.
The Panthers saw their longest winning streak since 2013 come to an end, despite playing one of their most complete games of the season.
The Panthers’ slow start — the Devils jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first — did them no good, but the reaction following might be something for the team to build on.
The Panthers came hard after goalie Cory Schneider in the final two periods, yet never were able to equalize things no matter how many chances they had.
New Jersey, meanwhile, didn’t break despite Florida’s heavy offensive surge and never trailed or were tied following Lee Stempniak’s opening goal 26 seconds into the game.
The Panthers have now lost 10 of their past 14 games to the Devils and haven’t won at Prudential Center since Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Schneider, Roberto Luongo’s old teammate in Vancouver, made 34 saves.
“We’re disappointed, got off to a bad start in the game,” said coach Gerard Gallant, whose team outshot the Devils 26-11 over the final two periods and took aim at the net 22 more times.
“We talked about playing 60 minutes, and if you don’t, you’re not going to win in this league.
“We played really well in the second half of the game, but it was too little, too late. We had chances but were always playing from behind. It was a battle, but we lost that game in the first period.”
Florida, which played five games in eight days, looked flat and tired early as the Devils built a lead.
The Panthers came out charging in the second with Aaron Ekblad scoring off a Jagr feed 45 seconds into the period.
The Devils, as they did all night, countered and rebuilt their lead by two when Adam Henrique — who slayed the Panthers in double overtime of 2012’s Game 7 — scored at 3:43 of the period.
Jonathan Huberdeau brought the Panthers back within a goal to make it 3-2 as his being reunited with Jagr and Sasha Barkov sparked Florida’s rally.
Huberdeau’s biggest lament was being stopped on a penalty shot late in the second period, which would have likely had a 3-3 score heading into the third.
“I needed that, needed to put that in to make it 3-3 and maybe change the game,” said Huberdeau, who has goals in two of Florida’s past three games.
“It would have changed the momentum. But we had a good road trip. Now we need to go home and win our two games.”
In the third, Florida continued to come hard after Schneider as it dominated the play inside the Jersey zone.
The Devils, playing on their heels, didn’t get their first shot of the third until six minutes in.
Of course, New Jersey’s second shot of the third was a doozy as Mike Cammalleri took a Damon Severson offering and beat Luongo to make it 4-2 with 13:16 left to play.
“It was a tough start, we dug a hole and Jersey is good at closing things up, trapping things up,” Luongo said. “We made a push, but I need to be better.
“It wasn’t my best effort and that’s disappointing in that regard.”
The Panthers got themselves back in playoff contention by taking 8 of 10 points on this trip with victories in Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville and Columbus. Florida, which faces Ottawa at home on Tuesday, has gone 7-3-1 in its past 11 games.
▪ Center Nick Bjugstad (upper body) missed the final four games of the trip.