NEW YORK — After an eight-game showing on Monday, the Florida Panthers flamed out in their last game before their two-week All-Star break, falling 5-2 to the New York Rangers.
They have no reason to be discouraged, however.
Florida heads into the break with a league-best 69 points.
“We’ve been having some great games, it’s fun to see that everyone is chipping in,” Anthony Duclair said.
“It’s not just a couple of guys, it’s the whole team from top to bottom, everyone’s been playing great, the goalies have been solid — making key saves in key moments — and it’s fun to play right now.”
The Panthers played the second-most games out of any team with 47, but managed to crunch out 32 wins and a .734 points percentage that ranks third in the NHL.
“I think, for the most part, we’ve played really well. We played a lot of hockey,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said.
“It was a lot of travel and we were starting to run on fumes a little bit tonight, but our guys have done an unbelievable job of bringing energy night in and night out.”
It was apparent that the team looked a little beat in the third period.
During that period, the Rangers outshot the Panthers 10-7, out-chanced them 9-6 and beat them 4-0 in high-danger chances.
“I thought our start was really good, but I think where the puck luck stopped following us around was the second goal,” Brunette said.
“I just felt we had trouble rebounding off that, we had a power play and a few different opportunities, but we didn’t really have the energy after that one.”
That goal Brunette was referring to occurred when Alexis Lafreniere snuck behind the Florida defense and slipped a backhand shot through Spencer Knight’s five-hole to tie the game up at two.
Florida had just gotten the momentum back after recovering from a Mika Zibanejad goal just 35 seconds into the game.
They controlled play from that point on in the first period, with Anthony Duclair scoring 10:44 into the game to tie it up.
The Panthers carried the momentum into the second when Sam Reinhart capitalized off of a Sasha Barkov rebound to give Florida the lead 2:18 into the second period.
That was the last time Florida had the lead.
Chris Kreider notched a power play goal from the front of the net with 2:35 to go in the second period to give New York a 3-2 lead.
They controlled play for the majority of the period, but could not break through quite easily.
That changed when Mason Marchment took a high-sticking penalty with 6:18 to go.
Kreider got his second goal of the game with yet another net-front tap-in to make it a two-goal game with 5:21 to go.
The Panthers established some momentum after pulling Knight with 3:30 remaining, but another penalty put a damper on any comeback efforts.
“I thought we got into a little penalty trouble at the end there,” MacKenzie Weegar said.
“We were gonna have a big push there in the last five minutes, but who knows what could have happened.”
What actually happened was an empty-net goal from Artemi Panarin with 41 seconds left to ensure a Rangers victory.
Florida will not play again until Feb. 16, when they head to Raleigh to face off against the Carolina Hurricanes.
During that layover, the team will take a break for a little bit over a week, returning to practice from the All-Star break on Friday, Feb. 11.
“Guys are going to see family and friends and maybe blow off some steam,” Weegar said.
“It’s a long break, so I expect guys to stay prepared and stay focused on the final stretch here, we want to put ourselves in a good position.”