NASHVILLE — The Florida Panthers failed to build off of the momentum of one of their biggest wins of the year and lost the finale of their four-game road trip with an embarrassing 7-3 loss to the Nashville Predators.
Just two days after gaining significant ground in the playoff race with a win over Washington, Florida gave it right back as its defense left the slot wide open for Nashville to dominate.’
In Matthew Tkachuk’s words, the Panthers’ biggest problem on Saturday afternoon was themselves.
”We just weren’t going hard enough from the start and we gave away too many goals,” Tkachuk said.
”We definitely didn’t start the game as well as we would have liked, that’s for sure.”
While Florida had a handle on the game early on — leading 2-1 at one point -0- the Predators turned this game into a rout pretty quickly.
Once the Panthers lost Radko Gudas with an apparent hand injury in the first minute of the second period, Nashville was able to capitalize and stretch out the Panthers’ defense to create chances off the rush.
“When he goes out, it is pretty noticeable,” Tkachuk said.
”He plays a lot of hard minutes and plays a very hard, physical game. In the month of December, he had a line where we had a little bit of our struggles when he went down so he means a lot to us and hopefully we can get him back soon.”
Panthers coach Paul Maurice was unable to provide an update on Gudas’ status but will likely have one after Sunday’s practice.
Colton Sissons scored what ended up being the dagger on a breakaway seven minutes later to pull ahead by two goals and sink Florida.
Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled from the game right after the goal and was replaced by Spencer Knight.
Bobrovsky allowed four goals on 12 shots before getting taken out.
The Panthers are in a position where they cannot afford to drop games and a 2-2-0 road trip did not do much to help matters.
Florida sits one point behind the New York Islanders for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference before starting a stretch of 14 home games in their final 23.
”We’ve paid for it and now we have to make the most of that opportunity,” Maurice said.
”We got four consecutive weeks at home with one road game into Tampa, which would be our shortest flight of the year. I don’t understand it, I know we certainly have paid for it in full and now we have to make the most of it.”
Detroit, Buffalo and Ottawa all remain looming threats coming within four points of the Panthers with at least five fewer games played.
The Panthers will have to pick up the pieces and jump back into the fight against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday afternoon less than 48 hours after one of their most sour losses of the season.
”You obviously gotta digest it and take away what you can,” Ryan Lomberg said.
”At the same time, you can’t dwell on it. You got to pick yourself up and you gotta go.”
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Predators 1, Panthers 0 (2:36, 1st): Tommy Novak beat Sergei Bobrovsky high glove side on the Predators’ first shot of the game.
- Panthers 1, Predators 1 (7:55, 1st): Nick Cousins sent a wrist shot from the high slot past Kevin Lankinen in his return to Nashville.
- Panthers 2, Predators 1 (12:09, 1st): Matthew Tkachuk deflected a Brandon Montour shot past Lankinen.
- Predators 2, Panthers 2 (12:56, 1st): Matt Duchene blasted a one-timer off of a feed from Ryan McDonagh.
- Predators 3, Panthers 2 (15:01, 1st, PPG): Ryan Johansen tapped in a feed from Roman Josi on the power play.
- Predators 4, Panthers 2 (7:40, 2nd): Colton Sissons scored on a breakaway with a backhand shot.
- Predators 5, Panthers 2 (16:23, 2nd): Josi sent a blast from the face-off dot past Spencer Knight to extend Nashville’s lead to three goals.
- Predators 6, Panthers 2 (8:58, 3rd, PPG): Novak scored his second of the game from in-close on the power play off of a feed from Philip Tomasino.
- Predators 6, Panthers 3 (9:42, 3rd, PPG) Sam Reinhart deflected a Sasha Barkov shot past Lankinen on the power play.
- Predators 7, Panthers 3 (14:24, 3rd): Yakov Trenin empty net goal.
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE DAY
1. Roman Josi, Nashville (goal, two assists)
2. Tommy Novak, Nashville (two goals)
3. Ryan McDonagh, Nashville (three assists)
PANTHERS ON DECK
ANAHEIM DUCKS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Monday, 1 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; NHL Network
- 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 (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 5, Ducks 3 (Nov. 6)
- Last season: Florida won 2-0
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 20-14-2, 3 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Buffalo at Florida, Friday, 7 p.m.