At some point, the Panthers will want to go back to the drawing board, especially after Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild which has left many people wonder if things could possibly get any worse.
It’s been a struggle for the Panthers to string much together consistent efforts and Tuesday night was no different. The hope was that they could build off an admittedly unexceptional victory on Sunday over the Canucks and get a second straight win under their belt to start a 3-game road trip.
But that was not the case.
“It’s a bad loss,” said interim head coach Tom Rowe. “We didn’t generate enough scoring chances. We outshot them, I get it, but our shots were from the outside, we didn’t have enough guys going to the net. It’s just part of the game we’re gonna have to continually work on.
“Guys gotta understand that if you’re gonna play in the National Hockey League, you gotta show up every single day, can’t show up [only] when you feel like it.”
Once again, the Panthers’ offense was just about no where to be found, even with the much-talked about 3rd line of Marchessault, Bjugstad, and Sceviour finally coming to fruition after injuries derailed the team’s plans. Seth Griffith played on the top line for the second game in a row, but his performance wasn’t nearly as impressive as it was against Vancouver, and the line as a whole wasn’t as effective either.
Dylan McIlrath ended Devan Dubnyk’s shutout bid with just under 5 minutes left in the 3rd as his wrist shot going wide hit off a leg in the slot and deflected into the net. Kyle Rau had a goal disallowed in the 2nd period as a result of being offsides prior to entering the zone.
Roberto Luongo was pulled after the Wild tallied their 5th goal of the game on the nth odd-man rush allowed by the Panthers. He slammed his stick on the bench as he left the ice and appeared to punch something in as he went into the tunnel.
“He’s a great goaltender, one of the best in the world,” said Rowe. “He’s been unbelievable for us.”
Aside from the defense, the real killer for the Panthers was not being able to convert on the power play. They went 0-for-5 on the night to extend their poor stretch with the man advantage to just 4 goals on their last 55 opportunities dating back to November 8th. Since Rowe took over on November 28th, the Panthers have scored just twice on 28 opportunities, and overall, the team is last in the NHL with a 12.6% success rate.
“We have the personnel here to do it,” said Rowe about improving the power play. “If we’re not gonna get it done with the guys we have, then we gotta find some other people that are gonna come out and execute and play a more simpler power play. We’re getting a little too fancy and we’re not shooting the puck enough, it’s pretty simple.”
It’s been a rough stretch for the Panthers since the start of the season, but the fact of the matter is that everyone needs to be better. Many will look to pin the team’s losing on a few players being gone last season, Gerard Gallant being fired, or management incorporating analytics into their decision-making process. There are scapegoats if we decide there should be.
However, the core of this team is back from last season and we know what everyone is capable of, they just aren’t playing up to it and it will have to change sooner rather than later.
Said Dylan McIlrath, who played in his 2nd consecutive game and had two fights and a goal: “We’re fine, we’re a tight-knit group. You can tell this team wants to win, this won’t set us back at all.”
The road trip continues on Thursday in Winnipeg against the Jets who have also struggled this season and are in the midst of a 3-game losing streak. It will be the Panthers’ first time facing the Jets this season as well as rookie Patrik Laine who leads the team with 17 goals. The Panthers will look to turn things around starting on Wednesday as they’ll hold a practice in Winnipeg to prepare for Thursday night’s game.