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Florida Panthers Have an Empty Tank, Get Blown Out by the Blues

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Florida panthers tkachuk
Matthew Tkachuk, back in his hometown of St. Louis, works the puck under pressure from Nick Leddy during the third period of the Blues 6-2 win over the Panthers on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)

The Florida Panthers were down a pair of goals midway through the third period Tuesday night and had one of their best offensive pushes of the game going.

Florida was moving the puck as well as they had all night, putting some serious pressure on goalie Jordan Binnington with a chance to get back in a game they had been out of since the start.

But the Panthers gave up the puck in their own zone, let the Blues take off with it and score not one but two goals within a span of 20 seconds to end any thought of a comeback.

The better team won on Tuesday night and it certainly was not the Panthers.

In fact, they sort of got what they deserved in their 6-2 loss to the Blues.

Florida certainly looked like a team playing in the second of a back-to-back and third game in four nights.

“We absolutely ran out of gas,’’ coach Paul Maurice said. “I thought we played hard  in the first, got a bad break on the first goal … our brains weren’t going and our legs couldn’t get us out of trouble. It’s always frustrating because you always feel there are things you can control out there and we weren’t mentally able to control them. We turned an awful lot of pucks over.”

The Panthers looked sluggish and a step off the play throughout as the Blues built a 3-0 lead and came within a high-stick of leading 4-0.

The Blues are a team which has already traded Vladimir Tarasenko to the Rangers and will be sellers at the deadline but beat the Panthers in both meetings this season.

”No excuses,” Radko Gudas said. “I believed in our team all the way until the end and through the first two periods, we had Grade-A chances. Had we buried them, this game would have looked a lot different.”

With Washington losing to the Hurricanes on Tuesday night without Alex Ovechkin, Florida did not lose any ground in its race to catch the Capitals although they did not pick up any either.

Thursday night’s showdown in Washington looms that much larger for the Panthers now after Tuesday’s loss and almost becomes that dreaded ‘must-win’ game.

”We need to get rested, get right and the emotion should carry us over in that game,” Maurice said.

Florida could have pulled into a tie in points with the Capitals had they won Tuesday night, but it seemed like all it put into Monday’s win in Minnesota sapped the Panthers of their energy.

”They played like one game in two weeks and we played four in six days,” Maurice said, “and it looked like it.”

The Panthers, down 3-0 after winning the challenge that the Blues used a high-stick to play the puck before Justin Faulk beat Spencer Knight, seemed to get a kick into high gear when Matthew Tkachuk found Eetu Luostarinen in the high slot to close out the second.

Florida came out flying in the third, was controlling possession and it seemed like only a matter of time before it was going to be a one-goal game.

Then, the Panthers got a little sloppy with the puck in their own zone, the Blues came racing up ice and Pavel Buchnevich found Ryan O’Reilly for a breakaway goal to all but end things at 4-1.

Jordan Kyrou then salted the game away 20 seconds later.

Florida did get a Carter Verhaeghe goal at 13:28 to make it a three-goal margin again but this one was over.

”We gave them a ton of looks off the rush,” Verhaeghe said. “We were not at our best tonight and it’s a little frustrating. We want to win every game and that’s not possible. Just keep building our game, get better every night and we’re on the right track. But tonight was not our best and I think we’ll bring our best to Washington.”

Now, the concern for the Panthers turns to the status of Sam Bennett.

Bennett left the game with 5:15 remaining in the second and did not return.

After the game, Maurice said Bennett would be looked at Wednesday in Washington.

PANTHERS ON DECK

 FLORIDA PANTHERS AT WASHINGTON CAPITALS

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
  • 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
  • Last season: Panthers won 2-1 (d. Capitals 4-2 in first round)
  • This season (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 5, Capitals 2 (Nov. 15)
  • All-time regular season series: Washington leads 67-44-12, 9 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday at Nashville, 2 p.m.

 

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