It certainly wasn’t the way the Panthers hoped to return from their 5-day, league-mandated bye week. A 6-3 beating at the hands of the visiting Los Angeles Kings sent the Panthers packing early for their upcoming road-trip.
A slot start for the Panthers and a quick one for the Kings meant an early deficit to overcome.
Dustin Brown scored just 1:39 into the 1st period before Jeff Carter took advantage of a rare missed assignment by Aleksander Barkov in the low slot, giving the visitors the 2-0 lead at the BB&T Center.
Jussi Jokinen gave the crowd and Panthers’ bench some hope after he netted his 6th goal of the year on a perfect pass from below the goal line by Nick Bjugstad, but the Kings would go on to score 4 straight goals before the end of the 2nd period.
“We didn’t come out ready,” said Mike Matheson. “[The Kings] did. That was the difference. It’s one of those games where you definitely have to learn from it.”
Jonathan Marchessault’s 16th goal of the season got the Panthers within 4 of the Kings with less than 9 minutes left in the 3rd, and Aleksander Barkov reduced the difference to 3 with a late goal.
Although the Panthers had a 37-26 advantage of the shot column and 4 power plays, quality scoring chances were tough to come by as was sustained offensive zone pressure.
The Kings were first on pucks, including rebounds right in front of their own net, and held their blue line strong. The second half of the game saw fewer chances overall for the Kings, but that didn’t mean more the other way.
“It’s one of those games,” said head coach Tom Rowe.
“It wasn’t pretty; everybody knows it wasn’t pretty. We’re going to forget about it and move on. We can’t dwell on it. It was a bad game from the start to the end of it.”
The Panthers entered Thursday’s game having won 3 straight games overall and 4 straight at home – both for the first time this season – but it seemed any momentum they had from the return of top line forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau on Friday was sucked away by their bye week which didn’t allow them to practice as a team until Wednesday.
“No,” said a visibly upset Jonathan Marchessault when asked if the long break factored into the effort and resulting loss. “There’s no excuse. We weren’t ready.”
Los Angeles had been shut out 5-0 in each of its last 2 games before facing the Panthers for the first time this season on Thursday.
Their 3rd goal on 8 shots chased starting goalie James Reimer – who was 5-1-1 in his last 7 starts – in favor of Roberto Luongo, who was pulled for Reimer after allowing 3 more goals on 12 shots.
After a practice on Friday, the Panthers will head to Nashville to face the Predators for a day game on Saturday. The Predators lost to the Rangers by a score of 4-3 on Thursday and were defeated by the Panthers 2-1 back on January 6th.