The Florida Panthers played one of their most complete games of the season on Thursday night in Las Vegas — and got nothing to show for it.
The Golden Knights scored on two of the four shots they took within the first 17-plus minutes of the third period as they came back to beat the Panthers 4-2.
Florida, despite its best efforts, remain winless in Vegas all-time at 0-4-1.
”We had a couple breakdowns,’’ Sam Reinhart said, “and they made us pay.”
Getting a win — or at least a point — out of Nevada would have been a big lift for Florida but a few mistakes (and its goalie getting run over in the final minutes) proved costly.
A couple of miscues and a failure to score on an extended 5-on-3 chance in the third cost the Panthers dearly.
“We have to finish,” coach Paul Maurice said. “When you are on the road, you have to finish on your 5-on-3s and you have to finish your chances. They played their asses off tonight. … It was a hard-fought game.”
Florida got an odd goal from Nick Cousins in the first with Vegas goalie Adin Hill down on the ice with the cage dislodged and then took a 2-1 lead in the second on a nice power play goal from Reinhart.
But that was all the Panthers could muster as an Anton Lundell goal that would have made it 3-1 in the third was taken off the board due to him coming into the zone without the puck.
Vegas killed off a 5-on-3 power play which lasted 1:44 as the Panthers continued to keep the puck in the Knights’ zone but could not get anything past Hill (37 saves).
Not long after the extended power play, Jack Eichel got behind Marc Staal and took off on a breakaway, beating Sergei Bobrovsky five-hole at 8:37 to tie the score at 2.
Staal got beat by Reilly Smith moments later on a similar breakaway only the former Florida forward hit the post and the game remained tied.
With 2:36 left, Will Carrier and Brandon Montour collided near the net with Carrier bowling over Bobrovsky as the puck slid across the line.
Florida challenged for goalie interference, but it was determined Carrier went into Bobrovsky due to the actions of Montour.
Vegas went on the power play in the closing minutes and William Karlsson ended it with an empty net goal with 1:07 remaining.
“There was not enough time on the clock,” Maurice said. “If the goal is a certainty … we thought (Montour) was twisting in more than pushing in and (Carrier) went in on purpose. So…”
Florida took the 1-0 lead on another play involving the goalie.
Aaron Ekblad walked in on Hill but could not get the puck past him; while the puck was banging around, Eric Staal was driven into the Vegas goalie and the cage came off its moorings just as Cousins was putting the puck over the line.
The goal stood.
Yet Despite holding the early 1-0 lead on the Cousins’ goal, the Panthers found themselves chasing the game for the first half of the opening period.
Florida was also on its heels for parts of the second as well.
The only shot on goal Florida registered in the first 10-plus minutes of the first was by Cousins as Ekblad’s miss technically did not count.
Florida did get its legs going in the second half of the period and at times they not only carried the pace of play but completely controlled things.
Until Eichel tied the score at 2 in the third, Vegas had not had a shot on goal in more than 16 minutes of play.
“That’s a tough one to give up,” Sasha Barkov said. “I thought we played well pretty much the whole game. Aside from a little bit of a slow start, we played exactly the way we wanted to.
“We just didn’t get the win. That’s not good. We played better but they have a good team. Of course if you give them chances, they are good players. We played better than the result.”
The Panthers will fly home Friday going 2-2-0 on a four-game road trip which they needed to find success on.
It was a mixed-bag of a trip as Florida certainly played well enough to win three of four.
Save for the Dallas game on Sunday and Florida was on for much of its games.
It is something to build on although being in the second half of the season, Florida needs wins not moral victories.
“It does not help our frustration right now,” Reinhart said. “This was a big opportunity for us tonight and it is unfortunate we didn’t get anything out of it. But there is an identity we are forming and that belief is coming back into this locker room and that is a big part.’’
PANTHERS ON DECK
VANCOUVER CANUCKS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Vancouver leads 18-12-4, 6 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Monday at Buffalo, 1 p.m.