The past couple of weeks, Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice has spoke at length about the reality of how no team in the NHL is going to go undefeated as they make their charge toward the playoffs.
How teams handle their wins and, more importantly, the losses which are bound to come will determine who makes it to the NHL’s Big Dance.
“You have to handle your day and only handle your day,” Maurice said on Tuesday morning, a few hours before his Panthers handled the Lightning with a clutch 4-1 win.
“Today is game day, so we are fired up. If we win it, we got to leave if there; you are still in that exact same spot. If you lose it, you have to leave it there too.
“We are all going to suffer defeats but the team that gets off the mat better makes the playoffs.”
The Panthers were coming off a disappointing loss at home to Buffalo, a team in contention for one of the final two playoff spots along with Florida.
Tampa Bay gave up six goals in a five-minute span of the second period Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Both teams were trying to “get off the mat” on Tuesday — and both teams have to feel they did exactly that. But it was the start of the two teams which was the difference.
Florida came to play and skated circles around the Lightning for much of the opening period in taking a commanding 3-0 lead it would not relinquish.
”There’s not a piece of our game I did not like,” Maurice said afterward, not forgetting the five penalties his team took to allow the Lightning to make it a game. “Our goaltender was really good, the penalty kill against that team … we had a whole bunch of guys blocking shots. We had some pretty smart, selfless play.”
While the Lightning did make it a game, Florida looked more desperate.
There is a reason for that: The Panthers needed to be the more desperate team.
Tampa Bay has lost five of its past seven and it simply does not matter. The Lightning will be the third seed in the Atlantic and will face Toronto in the opening round of the playoffs. Bank that.
Florida does not know what its future holds after landing in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday night.
The NHL Trade Deadline is Friday at 3 p.m. and the team could still decide this just is not their year and make a couple of moves — of the subtracting variety — in the coming days.
The Panthers do have the next seven games on home ice and do not play on the road until they travel to Detroit on March 20.
There are 20 games left so plenty of opportunity to go on a run although this is a team which has only won three consecutive games once this season.
The Panthers are going to have to expand on that moving forward.
But Tuesday night was a start.
“The biggest game for us is the next one,” said Bobrovsky, who made 29 saves for his 354th win which is most among Russian-born goalies. “We have to be ready and go from there. We’re not looking too far ahead. We need to get a little rest and then be ready for Nashville.”
PANTHERS ON DECK
NASHVILLE PREDATORS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Sun, 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 (Predators lead 1-0): Nashville 7, Florida 3 (Feb. 16)
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 21-13-6, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Pittsburgh at Florida, Saturday, 6 p.m.