Paul Maurice didn’t feel the need to give a postgame message to his team Friday, even as the Florida Panthers find themselves mired in a season-long four-game losing streak.
“It was delivered halfway through the first [period] and clearly through the second,” the coach said. “By the time the game’s over, if you haven’t said what you’re gonna say by the end ... you probably missed your opportunity to say what you needed to say earlier. We’ll get a day’s rest and we’ll get back.”
The Panthers desperately need the reset.
It was just a week-and-a-half ago that the Panthers were riding high with a nine-game win streak, capped by a miraculous overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 11 when Sam Reinhart scored the game winner with less than a second remaining on the clock.
Since then, they lost 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils, suffered back-to-back overtime losses to the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings after blowing third period leads in both contests and then on Friday fell 6-4 to the Minnesota Wild by giving up five power play goals — tied for the most in a game in franchise history.
It’s the first time the Panthers have dropped four consecutive games since March 21-27 of last season before they rattled off six consecutive wins to sneak into the playoffs on their way to a Stanley Cup Finals run.
“Losing four in a row’s tough,” defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “Holding ourselves accountable to a hard, tough, strong, resilient and responsible game is important and that’s something that we’re gonna have to get back to. Scoring the first goal. Taking care of leads. Not taking penalties. All really important keys for our success and having a good start is number one.”
The Panthers, Friday’s meltdown notwithstanding, understand how close they are to playing at the level they did in their nine-game win streak and for the majority of the season to this point. They are still second in the Atlantic Division, behind only the Boston Bruins.
But they do understand that they need that sense of grittiness and urgency that they had earlier in the season to return if they want to get back to their winning ways.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” forward Anton Lundell said. “We believe we can do that. We won nine games against tough teams, good teams. We’ve been playing pretty good, but just haven’t been able to do get the last goal. That one goal extra. It will come. We just need to stick with it and play a little bit harder.”