Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers lack energy in 3-1 loss to Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) and Wild left wing Zach Parise, right, celebrate a goal by Coyle as Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya (35) looks away during the first period of an NHL hockey game in St. Paul, Minn., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016.
Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) and Wild left wing Zach Parise, right, celebrate a goal by Coyle as Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya (35) looks away during the first period of an NHL hockey game in St. Paul, Minn., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. AP

Reinforcements are coming for the Florida Panthers in the coming days, and they sure could use the bodies.

The Panthers, now with four regulars and their highest-paid forward on the injured list, lost for the second day in a row as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Wild on Sunday afternoon.

Minnesota hadn’t won at the Xcel Energy Center since Dec. 28, a span of nine consecutive losses, before Erik Haula — a teammate of Florida’s Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau at the University of Minnesota — beat Roberto Luongo midway through the third for the game-winner.

“We didn’t bring any energy in the first, enough oomph to our game,’’ said Bjugstad, a Minneapolis native who has yet to win in this building since joining the Panthers in 2013. “Our slow start trickled down to the third, and they end up getting a breakaway.

“We can’t allow those kind of defensive lapses. It was a tough game for us. We didn’t play the way we wanted.’’

Luongo was scheduled to have Sunday off, but an errant shoulder to the head of Al Montoya brought Florida’s usual starter into the game with 12:35 left in the opening period.

Coach Gerard Gallant said Montoya would be fine after becoming the latest Florida player to go down with a shot to his head.

Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant talks about his team's mounting injuries in the wake of the team's 3-1 loss to the host Minnesota Wild on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016.

The Panthers aren’t expected to bring in a new goalie before Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline; veteran Mike McKenna could be recalled from Florida’s AHL team in Portland, Maine, on an emergency basis if needed for Tuesday’s game in Winnipeg.

“It was disappointing; [Montoya] got hit pretty good,’’ Gallant said, adding that team trainer David Zenobi “said he’s fine. He should be fine to go in our next game whether he plays or not.’’

Minnesota took a 1-0 lead on Montoya and the Panthers just 5:18 into the game.

Luongo came in and kept Florida in it despite a lackluster team effort in the opening period.

The Panthers bounced back in the second and tied the score on an Aaron Ekblad rocket off a perfect pass from Jussi Jokinen.

Luongo kept the score tied at 1 after stoning Thomas Vanek, but four minutes later Haula broke past Reilly Smith and Erik Gudbranson and put a high shot past Luongo for a 2-1 lead.

Minnesota ended things on an empty-net goal with 38 seconds remaining.

“It took me a while to get going; I was glad they didn’t score because I got into a groove in the second period,’’ said Luongo, who made 21 saves.

“It was disappointing to come out of here with a loss. Every point is so important right now. We have to move on, not dwell on this. Every game is important. Turn the page.”

▪ Of the five Florida players on injured reserve, three have suspected concussions, including Derek MacKenzie, who was surprisingly deactivated before Sunday’s game after playing Saturday’s entire game in Columbus.

Florida never placed Quinton Howden on IR despite his hit to the head against Nashville, and he returned to the lineup Sunday after missing five games.

“Injuries have been tough this year, especially recently,’’ Bjugstad said. “We have to find ways to win, and I think the guys we just acquired will help.’’

Before Sunday’s game, the Panthers had to shuffle their 23-man roster to fit newcomers Teddy Purcell and Jiri Hudler even though they weren’t going to play against the Wild.

Aside from adding MacKenzie to the injured list, Florida was finally forced to place Dave Bolland on the IR as well. Bolland, despite not playing since December, remained active as the Panthers mull a probable contract buyout at the end of the season.

If Bolland remains on the injured list, Florida could still sever ties with the center, but it would have to buyout the entirety of the remaining three years and $16.5 million owed.

▪ Gallant was named an assistant coach for Team North America’s entry into the World Cup of Hockey scheduled for September in Toronto.

The North American team, known as the “Young Gun” team, will be comprised of the top players 23 and younger from Canada and the United States.

Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau are expected to represent the Panthers.

“It’s exciting and a good opportunity,’’ said Gallant, who replaced former Florida coach Pete DeBoer on the team after he backed out for personal reasons. “It was sort of a surprise call last week, but I think it’s going to be fun.’’

Team North America will be coached by Edmonton’s Todd McLellan, with Jon Cooper (Tampa Bay), Gallant, Dave Tippett (Arizona) and Jay Woodcroft (Edmonton) serving as assistants.

▪ Logan Shaw left Sunday’s game after one shift in the third period after complaining of migraines.

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