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‘Comeback Cats?’ Not For the Florida Panthers This Season

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Florida Panthers goaltender Alex Lyon skates away as the New York Rangers celebrate Jimmy Vesey’s second-period goal on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Last season, the Florida Panthers all but thrived when they found themselves down a goal or two — even three at times.

Regardless of the situation, the Panthers somehow, someway made it happen as they recorded 11 comeback wins when trailing going into the third.

The Panthers have not been able to do that this season, one reason why the team goes into Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh three points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Statistics do not always tell the complete story, but in this case, the Panthers cannot run away from their inability to rally for victory.

When trailing after two periods, the Panthers are now 0-16-1 this season after losing 6-2 to the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Last season, the Panthers were 11-16-1 when down going into the third.

That is a phenomenal comeback record — which makes this season’s futility such a stark contrast.

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On Monday night, Florida tied it at 1 on a power play goal from Carter Verhaeghe but Mike Zibanejad gave the Rangers a 2-1 advantage going into the second.

Florida is now 0-12-1 in games in which it trails going into the second.

How were the Panthers last year? Try 14-6-3.

Why this team has been unable to battle back from deficits and pull off wins is as mysterious as it is frustrating.

One reason is its play in the third period of games.

Even in games they have won, they have given up goals in the third as teams have made a habit of rallying against them.

The Panthers are now being outscored by 22 goals in the third period of games — and are just 21-2-3 in games they came into the final 20 minutes holding a lead.

That is five losses in contests the Panthers took a lead into the third.

Last season, the Panthers were 39-0-1 when leading after 40 minutes.

Florida is also 1-5 in overtime games this season after going 16-6 last year.

Losing in New York on Monday night does not help Florida’s playoff hopes but they need to get over the disappointment pretty quickly as a huge game against the Penguins is forthcoming.

The Panthers are three points back of Pittsburgh and would be able to pick up some major real estate with a win tonight.

”Wipe this one. We would have liked the two points but tomorrow is important,” Brandon Montour said. “We are close in the standings and every game is important from here on out. We have to keep that compete. We’re playing hard, being attentive to each shift. Keep that up and we should be good.”

Florida will have to bring the same sort of effort it did on Monday although it is going to have to get some better scoring looks than it did against the Rangers.

While Igor Shesterkin had to make some key saves, the Panthers did not get in deep a whole lot or challenge in front of the net.

The Panthers found themselves down four goals in the third period when coach Paul Maurice pulled Alex Lyon with over nine minutes to play.

Sasha Barkov scored to make it 5-2 but this one was already too far gone.

“I love the way these guys are. They have been pushing,’’ Maurice said. “You walk in there during the second and third, and they’re trying to say stuff to get going. I was proud of the way they played. I thought they did a good job managing as best we could.’’

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS 

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: PPG Arena, Pittsburgh
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Season Series (Penguins lead 1-0): Pittsburgh 4, Panthers 2 (Dec. 15) 
  • Last season: Florida won 2-1
  • All-time regular season series: Penguins lead 55-35-7, 4 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Friday vs. Los Angeles Kings, 7 p.m.

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