SUNRISE — After giving up a third period lead and losing Game 1 of their series with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, the Florida Panthers hope to learn from their mistakes and calm themselves moving forward.
For a team that went 58-18-2 and won the Presidents’ Trophy, the Panthers did not play in these types of games very often.
They may have learned how to play in them the hard way.
Florida gets another shot at the Capitals Thursday night in Game 2 of the best-of-7 series at FLA Live Arena.
“I think we had to figure out that this is going to be hard,” Florida coach Andrew Brunette said after his team’s 4-2 loss on Tuesday night.
“We haven’t had a lot of hard games and we didn’t handle it as well as we’d like to. We weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be, we lost a little energy. This is a good eye-opener.”
The Panthers were held to under three goals in just 15 games during the regular season, going 2-9-4 in the process.
Washington was able to exploit that, trapping Florida in the neutral zone the whole game and limiting the number of rushes their skill players can get through with speed.
“They have guys over there that have won before and they know what it takes to win and they’ve adjusted well to us,” Anthony Duclair said.
“For guys like myself who use speed as a main weapon, you want to make sure you’re hard on the forecheck. They do a good job in clogging up the neutral zone, but we have to make sure to find a way to put it behind them and go get it.”
For the Panthers, making the jump to postseason hockey was quite the big leap.
They had their playoff spot locked up since April 3 and a big enough lead in the Atlantic Division to where they were able to step back a little bit.
That big of a gap in intensity needed an adjustment period and Washington was able to take advantage of the mistakes Florida made in the process.
“I think our execution could be a little better,” Brunette said.
“We were a bit sloppy. I don’t know if it was a little bit of a nervous factor or a little pressure, but we didn’t handle ourselves completely correctly.”
The Panthers found themselves on a 5-on-3 early after two quick penalties put them down and a couple of turnovers were able to swing the momentum in the Capitals’ direction.
“We always talk about those little momentum swings,” Brunette said.
“When you don’t have it, you have to get it back and I thought we were a little lax on that. We had some self-inflicted [shifts in momentum] off of changes and puck management that got us on our heels. We made some uncharacteristic mistakes and we were not able to recover.”
Nerves, as Brunette mentioned, got to the Panthers.
They made those mental mistakes in the passing game and they could not get their usual cycle game going to drive their scorers into the slot.
It’s something they are looking to get more comfortable with in Game 2.
“If you’re playing calmer, you’re playing with more confidence,” Duclair said. “We just want to play how we’ve been playing in the regular season and not be too nervous out there.”
With a game of playoff hockey behind them, the Panthers are looking to put those nerves and mistakes in the past and learn from them moving forward.
“The first game is over and done with and you want to move on,” Duclair said. “You’re gonna feel a bit more comfortable as the series goes on. It’s definitely going to be high-paced every game, but we want to turn the page and start fresh.”
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS (WSH lead 1-0)
- Game 2: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TBS
- Radio: WQAM 560 (flagship); WMEN 640 (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3 (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
PANTHERS V. CAPITALS
- Regular season series — Florida won 2-1: @Florida 5, Washington 4 OT (Nov. 4); @Washington 4, Panthers 3 (Nov. 26); @Florida 5, Washington 4 (Nov. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Capitals lead 67-44-11, 9 ties
- Playoff history: First meeting.
- First-round schedule — Game 1: Washington 4, @Florida 2; Game 2: Washington at Florida, Thursday, 7:30 (TBS/BSF); Game 3: Florida at Washington, Saturday, 1 (ESPN/BSF); Game 4: Florida at Washington, May 9, 7 (TBS/BSF); Game 5*: Washington at Florida, May 11; Game 6*: Florida at Washington, May 13; Game 7: Washington at Florida, May 15. *If necessary