The Panthers dropped their second straight game and their fifth in the last 6 with a 2-1 loss to the struggling Dallas Stars.
As they’ve struggled to score over the past week, the Panthers have hurt themselves with inconsistent defensive efforts, and that’s exactly what led to Saturday night’s result.
“When we’re being selfish and flying the defensive zone and not paying attention to defensive assignments, that’s what happens,” said a visibly frustrated head coach Tom Rowe after the defeat.
Jamie Benn was left all alone in front of the net for an easy tap-in goal to get the Dallas Stars on the board in the 1st period before Jonathan Huberdeau tied things up with a laser of a shot on the power play.
“When your top guys are cheating for offense, it does not help,” said Rowe. “It’s pretty simple, you’re not going to make the playoffs playing like that.”
With Reilly Smith attempting to leave the zone early and push the offense late in the game, John Klingberg was left alone at the point, received a cross-ice pass, and scored with 1:07 remaining the 3rd period to give the Stars a 2-1 lead. The shot deflected off the skate of Jussi Jokinen, top-shelf past James Reimer, and was the first shot by the Stars in 10 minutes.
“All I know is Reilly Smith was blowing the zone, doing exactly what he’s not supposed to be doing,” said Rowe of the Stars’ eventual game-winner to end what was a very brief post-game meeting with the media.
The Panthers have scored just 2 goals over their last 2 games combined despite totaling 82 shots. They lost a lead against Carolina and needed a shootout to get the 2 points, but fell in the shootout the on Thursday against Philadelphia after blowing a lead late.
Despite allowing just 5 goals on 103 shots over the last 3 games, Reimer has gone 0-2-1, including Saturday’s loss when he made 32 stops.
By killing off all 3 man-advantage opportunities for the Stars, the Panthers’ penalty kill has now gone 10 straight games without allowing a power play goal against, although they were unable to convert on several shorthanded odd-man rushes.
Nick Bjugstad, who has been centered a newly-formed line with deadline pick-up Thomas Vanek and Jonathan Marchessault, had a handful of grade-A chances, including a a scoring opportunity all alone in front of the net in the 3rd period on which he put the puck over the crossbar.
Jason Demers also had a chance earlier in the game when he put a shot off the inside of the right post on a feed from Vanek.
“These are tight games now,” said Reimer. “At the end of the day, they kind of got two lucky ones. We had some good chances and we had some good offense at times, but we just couldn’t buy one. It is what it is. I think we played a pretty solid game. We play more games like that, we’ll be fine.”
The Panthers have now split the season series with the Stars and will face the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at home.