Although Florida Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said his team “got what we deserved” on Sunday night in Los Angeles, they were in control of things until the final seconds of the third period.
Florida held a one-goal lead going into the last minute but an apparent missed call on Jonathan Huberdeau angered the star forward and led to a pair of penalties.
Fast forward and the Panthers lead disappeared with 31.7 seconds remaining and they ended up losing 3-2 in a shootout.
The loss ended Florida’s five-game road and overall winning streaks.
It also put to a halt Florida tying a franchise record with six consecutive road wins. Florida’s run of winning when leading after two periods also came to a close at 30 games.
The Panthers got a point out of it, sure, but two were prepped at the table.
“It’s tough seeing them score in the last minute,” said Brandon Montour, who gave his team that 2-1 lead in the second period.
“We got a point, it’s good to get a point, but obviously not having that extra one hurts a little.”
The Florida Panthers ending started when the Kings had already pulled goalie Jonathan Quick and Huberdeau was tripped up chasing down a loose puck to put into that empty net.
Huberdeau was, to put it mildly, not pleased after going awkwardly into the boards.
On the next trip up the ice he smashed into Los Angeles’ Alex Iafallo which led to a fight with Anze Kopitar.
Huberdeau got hit with a pair of penalties — elbowing and roughing — with Kopitar getting the one.
Los Angeles kept Quick on the bench and had a 6-on-4 in the Florida zone. Martin Frk cashed in with a nice shot on Spencer Knight from the left circle.
”We can’t control the uncontrollable and influence the game,’’ Brunette said. “We have to find a way to go through the adversity and find a way to close it out.”
Huberdeau also remained in the penalty box for part of the overtime period which was compounded by Aaron Ekblad getting flagged for tripping at 2:26 of the extra session.
Brunette was asked whether he liked to see the kind of passion Huberdeau extolled or if he thought it was reckless — especially considering the situation.
“It was a little reckless, but he had every right to be upset,” Brunette said. “It could have been catastophic thing that happened on the far end. I think he knows better, late in the game, to keep his emotions in check a little bit. But we’re only human. I think we’d all be upset at that.
“I would like it to be a little more controlled. We had a minute left. Things like that, with the timing of it … but, again, I understand the anger. I would have been upset as well.”
The Florida Panthers cannot blame this loss on Huberdeau although his actions did help lead up to the game-tying goal.
Huberdeau, after all, showed some tough defensive work along the boards while killing a penalty that led to Eetu Luostarinen’s goal to open the second period.
Florida probably should not have been in the position to be trying to hold off the Kings in a one-goal game in the first place.
”It’s a hard league to win in when you’re not bringing your A-Game or best game,’’ Brunette said. “I thought we found a way to get to the end of the game. Things happen and you move on to the next game. I didn’t think we had a lot of energy all game and credit to them, they clogged us up pretty good.
“It was a fight for ice and made it hard on us. We were searching for it. It wasn’t from a lack of effort. We just weren’t on our game.”
The Panthers did a tremendous defensive acumen throughout the game, a style and effort which will serve them well moving forward.
When a team is not scoring at the clip the Panthers are used to scoring at, their defensive side has shown an improvement as the season has gone along.
And they’re going to need it.
“We didn’t have the best start, but I liked our effort throughout,” said Radko Gudas, the NHL’s hit leader who ended his night with eight more. “We picked it up, played hard and did not give them many chances. They didn’t quit. It was a really hard-fought battle today. The shootout went the wrong way, but we held our ground.
”It’s a learning process and there are things we learned today. It’s important to stay with it and we did. No one went on their own page. It was good to see the guys pull for each other. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. We have to turn the page. But we should keep our heads up. We still have a long road trip ahead of us.”
This was also a really nice night for the Panthers’ rookie goalie as Knight was making his second start in a week.
He was terrific in both.
Knight, who ended with 35 saves, kept the Panthers in the fight throughout the game but especially in the third and overtime. Yeah, the Kings scored the game-tying goal against him in the final seconds, but that was with a two-man advantage.
And, Los Angeles had ample opportunity to win the game outright in the overtime session had it not been for Knight’s play.
Six of his saves came in the overtime.
“It was fun to see him get that confidence,” Gudas said. “He kept us in the game. He had another strong game that I liked from him. It’s fun seeing him do this well, smiling and having confidence. It helps us make plays in front of him seeing that confidence.”
Los Angeles, coming off a 5-0 loss in San Jose the night before, got Sunday going its way when Rasmus Kupari scored on a backhanded shot 11:50 in.
The Panthers ended up going into the second down a goal despite outshooting the KIngs 11-6 as they went 0-for-2 on the power play.
Florida came out fast in the second, but it was after Carter Verhaeghe went to the penalty box.
Right off the faceoff, Huberdeau outmuscled the puck along the boards and found Luostarinen who beat Quick for his first NHL shorthanded goal.
It was also Luostarinen’s first goal since Dec. 30 against the Rangers.
Florida took the lead a few moments later when Sasha Barkov did a fantastic job of keeping the puck in the Los Angeles zone.
Barkov fired a shot from 35 feet out that bounced off quick with defenseman Brandon Montour charging in and following it up.
“Anytime I can help on the ice or make a difference, defensively or offensively, it was good to get up there,” Montour said. “We have 20-something games left, I want to keep that going.”
BOB BRUISED, APPEARS OK
Although not playing Sunday night, Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was hurt in the first period when an errant shot into the bench struck him and appeared to ricochet and hit him in the face.
Bobrovsky went off to the Florida room for treatment and was back on the bench for the start of the second with a cut above his top lip. Bobrovsky was treating the cut with a bag of ice.
”He’ll be OK. I think. I haven’t talked to him,” Brunette said. “He was on the bench, he should be OK.”
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles
2. Spencer Knight, Florida
3. Martin Frk, Los Angeles