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Florida Panthers Not Satisfied After Clinching Playoff Spot With Loss

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Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice watches with Sam Reinhart and Matthew Tkachuk during an eventual 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday in Sunrise. Florida earned a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs, anyway. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

SUNRISE — Yes, the Florida Panthers clinched a playoff spot on Thursday.

They were not in the mood to pat themselves on the back.

After all, it took a decisive Carolina Hurricanes win over the Detroit Red Wings to make it happen after the Panthers lost in regulation both times they had a chance to clinch a spot on their own with a win.

Coach Paul Maurice was not in a congratulatory mood when he stepped into his postgame media scrum following his team’s 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders.

“I appreciate the question, but I’m just a grumpy old man, so I’ll answer them all tomorrow,” he said when asked about his team being seconds away from clinching a playoff spot at the time with Carolina holding a 4-0 lead over Detroit.

“I don’t feel like talking about good things right now. Write whatever you want, today is free quote (expletive) day. Take whatever you think I might say and use it.”

Maurice has good reason to be a little angry right now.

His team has now lost six of its past seven and there has been at least one common theme of late.

In their past three losses, the Panthers held multiple leads and could not hold onto them.

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“I think we’re playing hard,” captain Sasha Barkov said. “But I think our whole thing is that we need to play hard all the time and every shift. Sometimes, mistakes happen by playing hard and I don’t think anyone is doing the wrong thing.

“We’re just playing hard and mistakes are coming, so we’re just going to learn from that and we’ll watch some video tomorrow and we’ll be better.”

On Thursday, those mistakes came in the form of losing battles and momentum-killing penalties.

After Vladimir Tarasenko gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead early in the first, Ryan Pulock was left uncovered in the face-off circle and picked a corner to tie the game with 6:40 to go in the period.

When Barkov put Florida up 2-1 early in the second period, Mathew Barzal answered by deflecting a Noah Dobson shot past Anthony Stolarz to tie it back up two minutes later.

Another two minutes after that, Jean-Gabriel Pageau muscled his way through a crowded netfront and poked the puck past a fallen Stolarz to give New York its first, and lasting, lead.

Florida argued that Stolarz’s fall was caused by goaltender interference, but upon review, it was determined that Islanders forward Casey Cizikas was pushed into him by Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

“They probably got more pucks through from the point,” Aaron Ekblad said of the second-period collapse. “I guess we kind of did, tooo, but maybe we have to do a better job cleaning up in front of our net and making sure Stolarz can see pucks.”

Untimely penalties in the third period killed any kind of momentum they could have built to make a comeback.

An Ekman-Larsson roughing penalty 2:33 into he third slowed down Florida’s pursuit for a tying goal.

They got several good looks on a power play they got midway through the third period, generating two shots and two high-danger chances, but any momentum they generated was immediately halted by a high-sticking penalty from Sam Reinhart which put them on the penalty kill for four minutes with 5:31 to go.

By the time they killed it off, it was too late.

“You can’t sit in the box for 12 minutes,” Maurice said. “Our penalty kill was good, but it gives them momentum time. You’re burning especially Barkov and Reinhart because they’re a big part of that kill. That’s a big chunk of time that they spend in there.

“We can’t look for help in that area. We have to do a better job controlling it.”

ON DECK

DETROIT RED WINGS @ (X) FLORIDA PANTHERS

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JerryS

Our team has lost its swagger. This seems to be more mental than anything else. During our win streaks we had injuries and players just stepped up to do what needed to be done. NY was definitely the hungrier team last night. Also the officiating was definitely not consistent. The 2nd Goalie interference looked more egregious than the first one that was disallowed.

Tom

I agree – mental mistakes abound for some reason. I noticed it started to happen around the trade deadline. Did we mess with team chemistry too much?

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