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Can the Struggling Florida Panthers Turn It Around?



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Anton Lundell gives the Florida Panthers a 1-0 lead with his first-period goal against Sam Montembeault on Tuesday night. The Canadiens scored four unanswered goals and won 5-3. (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

The Florida Panthers wanted to get their game in shape for the upcoming NHL Stanley Cup playoffs battle.

This ain’t it.

After sustaining their first loss to Montreal in close to two years on Tuesday night, the Panthers have dropped eight of their past 10 games.

Coach Paul Maurice & Co. have six games left this regular season to turn things back in the right direction.

Can they do it?


Maurice does not sound too worried.

“No, I am not concerned,” Maurice said following Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the host Canadiens. “We understand where we are at and why we are playing the way we are playing. I am aware of it, though.”

Later, Maurice added this:

“They’re fine. They’re going to be just fine. Everyone relax.’’

Lately, the numbers have not looked fine. Maurice knows this better than anyone.

Florida has won just one game in regulation in its past 10 games, with the second win coming in a shootout against Detroit on Saturday afternoon.

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Since then, the Panthers have trailed Toronto 5-1 and Montreal 5-2 before making those games closer.

Closer, not close.

“We gave them too many chances,” captain Sasha Barkov said. “They are a high-skilled, fast team and they got what they wanted. They scored the goals, we couldn’t keep the puck out of the net. I don’t want to say that moments like this happen in a season, but they do. You don’t want to lose than many games in the past 10. But there is only one way, and that is to work as hard as possible together, get out of the slump and start having fun again.”

The Panthers came into Tuesday without two top scorers after Carter Verhaeghe got hurt in Monday’s 6-4 loss in Toronto, and Matthew Tkachuk was out with an illness.

Aaron Ekblad left the game after a fight late in the first and did not return.

Again, Maurice did not appear to be alarmed.

“We’re going to lose guys, I told you that two weeks ago,” Maurice said, while not giving an update on Ekblad aside from that he will be evaluated Wednesday.

“We’re going to lose bodies; have guys get sick, guys get injured. It is just the function of the schedule. It is going to be a grinder — and it’s going to get worse, because we get to end this road trip with a nice afternoon game. With 10 in 17 (days), that’s what happens.”

As for the injuries: “The way things are going now, someone could take a shot off a foot, break a bone in their foot, so I am not risking it. We are not all in on this. Let’s just get off the ice before someone else gets hurt.’’

Things appeared to be going Florida’s way early, and it looked like the Panthers would get their 12th win in 13 tries against the Canadiens after Anton Lundell drove in on Sam Montembeault to make it 1-0 midway through the first.

Montreal tied it soon afterward, but Barkov got another goal — 25 in 35 games against the Canadiens — to make it 2-1.

Then came the second, and the wheels fell off the Florida bus.

Montreal got a pair of Nick Suzuki goals to take a 3-1 lead into the third before Cole Caufield wrapped one around Anthony Stolarz 33 seconds into the third.

A shorty from the Canadiens less than 5 minutes into the third all but ended it.

The Panthers will have Wednesday off before they resume their newfound rivalry with the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.

It is the penultimate road game of this regular season; Florida plays No. 41 away from Sunrise on Saturday afternoon in Boston.

While fans may be panicking as they are wont to do, Maurice kept things in perspective.

“We have a good chunk of adversity right now,’’ he said. “Part of it will be the panic that will set in outside the room. You are competitive men and you want to win. Only you are not. So you are growly a little bit. The team is a bit snarly but we didn’t have enough in the tank to even show that snarl tonight.”


1. Sam Montembeault, Montreal

2. Nick Suzuki, Montreal

3. Cole Caufield, Montreal



  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Canadian Tire Center, Ottawa
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • This Season (Panthers Lead 2-0) — At Ottawa: Panthers 5, Senators 0 (Nov.27); Thursday. At Florida: Panthers 3, Senators 2 OT (Feb. 20); Tuesday.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Ottawa leads 57-46-5, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday at Boston, 3:30 (ABC)

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