Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers look for rebirth at home after rough road trip

Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant gestures during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul, Minn., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016.
Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant gestures during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul, Minn., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. AP

It was not a good trip. No one from the Panthers will try to sell it any other way.

Yet Monday is literally a new day and for the now-second-place Panthers, a chance to get back on track.

Florida, smarting after Saturday night’s 5-1 loss in Arizona, will play host to Boston on Monday night. The Panthers will enter that game two points back of Tampa Bay, the new top team in the Atlantic Division.

Boston, Florida’s nemesis the past few seasons, is just one point behind the Panthers in third place.

“It wasn’t a good road trip for us. We should have played better,” coach Gerard Gallant said after Florida won just one of five games on the trip.

“We didn’t have our 60-minute team that it takes to win in this league and it cost us in this road trip. We got to figure the burden and look forward to next week’s games at home.”

The Panthers expected to put on a decent show against an Arizona team that had lost its past seven games and was outscored 11-1 in its previous two.

Yet after a scoreless first, the Coyotes jumped all over Panthers miscues, with Jordan Martinook scoring a shorthanded goal 29 seconds into the second after picking the pocket of Reilly Smith at center ice and walking in on Al Montoya.

Alex Tanguay made it 2-0 after newcomer Jakub Kindl turned over the puck deep in Florida’s zone.

The Panthers got a goal from Aaron Ekblad to make it 2-1 with 2:32 left in the second, but a disastrous third period led to a rare Coyotes rout.

Arizona put up two goals in the first 5:35 of the third period, and it held a comfortable lead by the time Antoine Vermette scored with 23 seconds left.

“We were looking pretty good, but defensively we ended up costing ourselves chance after chance,’’ said Nick Bjugstad, part of a Panthers team that won in Winnipeg on Tuesday yet lost at Columbus (after leading 2-0), at Minnesota (which had lost nine games in a row at home) and at Colorado before Saturday.

Florida getting just three of the available 10 points on the trip didn’t do itself any favors in the standings. Tampa Bay, which has won nine consecutive games, now has that two-point lead on the Panthers.

Florida goes into Monday’s game a regulation loss to Boston away from being in third place in the division. The Panthers had a three-point lead on Tampa Bay going into the opener of the trip on Feb. 27 in Columbus.

▪ The highlight of Florida’s upcoming three-game homestand is expected to come Saturday when the Flyers come to town.

The Panthers are holding a 20-year reunion for their 1996 Stanley Cup Finals team, with a majority of players as well as former coach Doug MacLean and general manager Bryan Murray taking part.

Some longtime season-ticket holders have been invited to a special pregame session with such players as John Vanbiesbrouck, Brian Skrudland, Ed Jovanovski, Billy Lindsay and Scott Mellanby — who started the rubber rat craze on opening night in 1995.

“So many guys are coming to this it should be a great time,’’ said Randy Moller, the team’s longtime alumni director and TV/radio analyst.

Florida beat Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 1996 before beating Jaromir Jagr’s Pittsburgh Penguins in the East finals. The Panthers were then swept in four by Colorado in the Stanley Cup Finals. Florida hasn’t won a playoff series since beating the Penguins.

Moller credited Florida executive chairman Peter Luukko — who came to the Panthers from the Flyers — for pushing for the reunion.

▪ Montoya gave up a season-high five goals on Saturday. He had allowed two goals or fewer in 12 of 15 starts entering the game. Roberto Luongo is expected back in net Monday.

Monday: Bruins at Panthers

When/where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

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

Series: Boston leads 45-34-6.

Scouting report: The Panthers have lost 18 of the past 22 games against Boston, including both meetings this season. Florida’s loss in Boston on Dec. 12 preceded the Panthers winning their next five. … The teams split the season series last year, with three of the four games going to overtime.

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