Frustration With the Florida Panthers Starts With Themselves
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As the horn sounded, officially putting an end to another Florida Panthers loss — this one 3-1 to the Buffalo Sabres — Matthew Tkachuk went after Jeff Skinner along the half wall and appeared ready to throw down with anyone who wanted to dance.
It was frustration, plain and simple.
Skinner scored twice on Friday night as the Sabres handled the Panthers in a game both teams needed to stay in the thick of the playoff race.
Buffalo seemed to have no ill affects from playing three games in the span of four nights.
The Panthers were well-rested and, while there were plenty of handy excuses, should have handled their business on home ice.
Instead, they did not.
The discontent was mostly with themselves.
“Losing an important, four-point game like that, yeah; that is always frustrating,” said Tkachuk, as he struggled to untie the knot on his skate inside a mostly-empty Florida locker room.
”I think that is what everyone is frustrated about. We did not play great in the first two periods, then you saw them sit back in the third and we were able to generate some more.’’
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For the past couple of days, the Panthers talked a great game.
Each and every one of their remaining contests were meaningful, they said, each one had to be considered a playoff game.
Then came Friday night, a game against a team Florida is competing with for one of the two remaining postseason slots in the Eastern Conference.
The Panthers’ bark was much worse than their bite.
As has been for the entire season, quite honestly.
“This was a huge home game and it is really disappointing to have the first two periods like that,’’ Carter Verhaeghe said. “We’re in a playoff push and there is nothing we can do about it now. We have to be ready moving forward.”
Buffalo came to Sunrise on a late night flight to Fort Lauderdale. It was a short jaunt from Tampa but the Sabres flew down either on a mission or with nothing to lose.
The Sabres have not been to the playoffs since 2011, the longest active postseason drought in the NHL.
They appeared hungry on Friday.
The Panthers, who are the reigning-but-certainly-not-defending NHL Presidents’ Trophy champions, seemed blasé about the matchup.
Winning six straight against the Sabres, and perhaps not taking them as seriously as they should have, was costly.
To make the playoffs, the Panthers have to go on a run we have not seen them go on all season.
This is a team, after all, which has won three straight just once.
Now they are being asked to win 15 or 16 out of the final 22 just for the experience of facing the Bruins in the first round.
Good luck making it to the playoffs.
Better luck getting to Game 6 before summer comes.
The Panthers did not seem to have their hearts completely into Friday’s game and perhaps it was due to knowing they were missing two of their top centers or losing Spencer Knight earlier in the day.
Regardless, they did not appear to be a desperate team when it came to playing a key game against the Sabres.
The two played a scoreless first — one the Panthers could have been up 2-0 in had it not been for Nick Cousins missing an empty net or Grigori Denisenko clanking a breakaway chance.
In the second, Buffalo scored twice. With the way Craig Anderson warmed up as the game went along in front of a ton of friends and family, it never felt like the Panthers were going to get back into this one.
Which is what happened.
Down 2-0 in the third, Verhaeghe scored and it appeared the Panthers were really pressing and putting the pressure on Anderson and his Sabres.
But minutes later, Skinner got his second of the night to make it 3-1 and the air was out of that balloon.
The Panthers certainly did not quit. In all, Anderson faced 54 shots on goal and 27 in the third period.
But Florida likely could have come out strong from the start and perhaps put this game down before the Sabres started feeling it.
“Our first two periods were not great,’’ Verhaeghe said. “You give a team like that a 2-0 lead and it is tough to come back. That’s what happened. We have to come out right the next game. …
“This was a huge home game and it is really disappointing to have the first two periods like that. It sucks. We’re in a playoff push and there is nothing we can do about it now. We have to be ready moving forward.”
As things stand right now, the Panthers are tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with Detroit and the Sabres — and both of those teams having played four fewer games.
That means both teams have eight potential points in the bank on the Panthers.
Florida has another must-win game — almost all of the final 21 fall into that category now — on Tuesday in Tampa.
Again, good luck.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- 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
- Season Series (Tampa Bay leads 2-1): Lightning 3, @Panthers 2 OT (Oct. 22); Lightning 4, Panthers 1 (Dec. 10); Florida 7, Lightning 1 (Feb. 6)
- Last season: Split four regular season games; Tampa won second-round playoff series 4-0
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 74-50-19, 10 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Nashville, 7 p.m.
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Horrible game. No enthusiasm from them. No urgency. No drive to even get into the playoffs. First game where they looked like they were just playing out the string. Yes, I know, no Barkov or Bennett, but where’s the “Next Man Up” attitude? That’s on Maurice. The catcalls for “Fire Paul” have started in the Lower Level. Got tired of watching Buffalo just walk in on Bob all night. Maybe it’s best not to make the playoffs…
Well in the immortal words of porky pig “That’s all folks’, the only thing to look forward to now is to see just how high of a draft pick we are going to end up giving to Montreal. And what’s this roster going to look like next year, because you know they are going to trade away guys for prospects/picks come the deadline. Such a lost opportunity for a franchise desperate for any type of sustained success. From the best offense in the league to what wee saw last night is pathetic. I’ve made it no secret how I felt… Read more »
After the fun of last season, I was really looking forward to this season. But thanks to Maurice and Zito this has been a return to the Panthers of old. Boring! Last season they were a team. Every game was fun and exciting. This year not so much. Please Matt fire these guys.
What are the significant injuries to Barkov and Bennett that have them practicing, but kept them out of maybe of one of the most important games of this screwed up season? Told by PM prior they were ok but might not play! Did they just think b/c Buffalo was on the 2nd of a b to b, after beating TB; the Sabres were just going to lay down and roll over to the mighty home team? Guess they found out who rolled over!! Shameful performance, with coaching on top of that list!!
Maurice takes the fun out of playing hockey, you can see it on the players faces. IMO he lost the room about a month ago I was also blown away that he kept our two best centers out of a 4 point game, with basically our season on the line. It’s baffling, what is he saving them for?
They can only lose 6 more games and expect to accumulate the 96 points they will need to get in the playoffs. Lyons earned the right to be Bob’s backup. Knight needs to get straight and play in the minors. He is only 21. Our defense socks. Our opponents outscore us and our PK is horrible. This team is not a playoff team. Maurice isn’t any better than the players.