After returning home following the sweep of a 5-game road trip for the first time in franchise history, the Panthers lost their second game in a row at the BB&T Center, with the latest being a 4-2 decision at the hands of the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
Chad Johnson, who started in net for the Flames for the first time since February 13th, made 36 saves and was arguably the visiting team’s best player as the turned things on after the 1st period. Roberto Luongo stopped 24 shots in his first appearance in nearly a week.
Luongo played in his 964th career NHL game which is good enough for 4th all-time in league history.
“We had 38 shots,” said head coach Tom Rowe. “I don’t know what game you were watching, but we had a ton of chances. We just didn’t have any lucky bounces go our way and their goaltender played unbelievable.”
Nick Bjugstad gave the Panthers an early lead with a one-timer on the power play 4:54 in to the 1st period, but the Flames went on to light the lamp three times in less than 5 minutes.
Aleksander Barkov scored his 16th goal of the season to get the Panthers within 1 of the Flames with 2:40 left in the 1st, making it a 3-2 game headed into the middle frame.
Troy Brouwer got the only goal for the rest of the game as the Panthers dominated play despite not being able to put the puck into the net. Calgary was stopped on its one opportunity with the man-advantage while the Panthers converted once on their three chances.
Barkov now has 7 goals in his last 8 games, Reilly Smith has 7 assists in his last 7 games, Nick Bjugstad has 4 goals in his last 7 games, and Jussi Jokinen has 9 points in his last 8.
A stretch of solid defensive play propelled the Panthers onto their season-long 5-game winning streak, but with that now over, they’ve now allowed 4 goals in each of the last 2 games. They’ve now lost 3 straight at home dating back to February 9th when the Kings handed them a 6-3 loss.
“We had a great road trip,” agreed Barkov. “We got our chances to get back into the playoffs that road trip and, right now, we just lost two in a row at home. It’s not good, but I think we played a good game. We had a lot of chances to score, but we need to tighten up our defensive game and play the same way we did on the road.”
The Flames have now swept the 2-game season series against the Panthers after defeating them with a similar 5-2 result in Calgary back in January.