Florida Panthers

Injured Florida Panthers salvage point in shootout loss to Sharks

Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya covers the puck for a first-period save against San Jose on Thursday night.
Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya covers the puck for a first-period save against San Jose on Thursday night. AP

The Panthers weren’t exactly celebrating losing to San Jose on Thursday night.

But they weren’t in mourning, either.

With a thrown-together lineup because of injuries galore against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, Florida earned a hard-fought point in the standings with its 2-1 shootout loss to the Sharks at BB&T Center.

“I was real happy with everything,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “Look at our lineup; we’re doing the best we can. The guys played a perfect game for me. We didn’t get a lot of chances ourselves, but I’m real happy with the way the guys fought and competed.’’

Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant speaks after his team's shootout loss to San Jose on Feb. 18, 2016.

With Boston and Detroit both losing, Florida also picked up a sliver of real estate in the division race.

The Panthers now lead the Bruins by five points, the Red Wings by six. Tampa Bay pulled to within seven with its wild win against Winnipeg, Florida’s next opponent.

Still, the Panthers would have liked to have added to that total. Florida led 1-0 and had numerous chances against a San Jose team which is battling Los Angeles and Anaheim for the top spot in the Pacific Division.

“I mean, a point is a point and we need them right now,’’ said Vincent Trocheck, who was stopped on a pair of big breakaway chances by goalie Martin Jones, who made 19 saves not including two in the shootout.

“We need every point, so we needed the second one, too.”

Said Jonathan Huberdeau: “It was kind of like a playoff game. I think we’ve been playing well, the penalty kill did the job at the end. Overall, it was a good game against a good team on the other side.”

The Florida Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau speaks after a shootout loss to San Jose on Feb. 18, 2016.

Florida took the initial 1-0 lead when Jaromir Jagr pulled within a goal of Brett Hull for third all-time by knocking in a rebound of a shot from Trocheck 2:23 into the third.

The Sharks tied it midway through the period when Florida’s Reilly Smith turned over the puck trying to escape the Florida zone and Joe Thornton found Logan Couture sliding into the slot.

Couture beat Al Montoya, but no other Sharks player did until the shootout. Montoya, making starts in consecutive games for the first time this season, ended with 16 saves.

“We battled really hard and it’s unfortunate we didn’t come away with two [points],’’ said Montoya, who has given up two goals or fewer in 12 of 15 starts this season.

“It was a huge point for us moving forward. These points are tough to come by ... We played smart, did good things. We need to build off it, keep moving.”

Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya speaks after Florida's shootout loss to San Jose on Feb. 28, 2016.

▪ According to the Panthers, Jagr became only the second forward in history to score an NHL goal after his 44th birthday — which was Monday. Hall of Famer Gordie Howe, known affectionately as “Mr. Hockey” is the other.

▪ Erik Gudbranson and Sasha Barkov, both believed to be recovering from concussion symptoms, skated for over an hour Thursday and took part in Florida’s full morning skate.

Both will also likely miss Saturday’s game against Winnipeg but are on track to return Feb. 25 against Arizona as Florida has five days — and a handful of practices — between games.

“It was a tough decision I had to make, but it’s the right one,’’ said Gudbranson, who is said to have been initially hurt Jan. 18 against Edmonton yet played in five more games before leaving the lineup.

“You want to be healthy going into the playoffs when the team really needs you. I had to make a decision. It’s not bad, just something that needed to be taken care of.”

▪ Brandon Pirri is walking on crutches after injuring an ankle Saturday against Nashville but could be back in a few weeks. Pirri was placed on injured reserve Thursday.

▪ San Jose coach Pete DeBoer said he’s real happy the Panthers have seemingly turned their fortunes around.

DeBoer was fired by Florida after three seasons as coach from 2008-11.

“This organization is in a whole different place than it was there, DeBoer said. “It’s good to see. The fans down here deserve a good team and I think they are set up to win for a while here. This isn’t short term. They’ve set the table to be good for a while.

“I have a lot of friends still here who are season ticket holders. They’ve been through a lot of pain; I endured it for three years but they’ve been in it a lot longer than that. I loved my time down here.”

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