The Panthers were unable to recover after blowing another early lead to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night en route to their 6th loss in the last 10 games.
Things started off well for the Panthers as Jason Demers scored his first two goals of the season within just over 2 minutes of each other, giving them an early lead. The two goal performance was Demers’s first since 2010 when he was a member of the Sharks as a rookie in the NHL.
“It’s fun, but you want to win first,” said Demers who was the Panthers’ only source of offense. “I don’t care if I get four goals. If we don’t win, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a tough one to swallow, but you just got to get back.
The Panthers had a jump in their step and were putting pucks towards the net for most of the 1st period before a blocked shot at the point allowed Brent Burns to go the other way and score on James Reimer, who made 25 saves on 28 shots in his first start against his former team since signing as a free-agent in the off-season.
After the Sharks made it 2-1, they continued to take things to the Panthers who were really only able to generate chances from the perimeter for the rest of the game. Joe Pavelski scored with a violent, top-shelf wrister off a bad bounce along the half boards in the 2nd period, Tommy Wingels jumped the circle after a face-off win and made a move to the net to make it 3-2, and Logan Couture sealed the deal with an empty-netter in the final minute of the 3rd period.
Jussi Jokinen returned to the lineup for the first time since October 20th and rejoined Vincent Trocheck and Reilly Smith before head coach Gerard Gallant swapped Barkov and Trocheck late in the game in an attempt to spark some offense.
“We worked hard, we played against a real good team, we’re up 2-0,” said Gallant. “We’re coming out and we’re playing well in the 1st period. I like the way we played most of the game but we made 3 mistakes and they’re in the back of our net.”
For the Panthers, it’s been a struggle to not only generate late offense but also protect leads which is the complete opposite of last year’s squad. Games have started out well, but they’re not ending well, and the Panthers know it’s something that needs to change in order to get some wins under their belt.
“It’s a trend that’s been going on since the start of the year,” said Jason Demers. “We gotta fix it soon because it’s embarassing to keep getting games like this and playing hard and then just [have] mental errors and mental mistakes by all of us. We let off the gas and we let teams back into games.”
The Panthers will face the New York Islanders on Saturday at home for the first time since April 24th of last season when they lost in a double OT game 6 of the 1st round of the playoffs. The Islanders, who are off to a similar start as the Panthers, are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Lightning on Thursday night with Andrew Ladd’s first goal of the season being their lone marker in front of a split goaltending performance by Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss.