The Florida Panthers looked as if they finally ran out of steam in the first two periods Monday night. However, the third period reinfused the Panthers with the confidence that had them threatening to mount the best start in NHL history.
The Panthers will look to bounce back from their first regulation defeat Tuesday night when they complete a back-to-back road set by opposing the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J. It will be the first matchup between the teams in almost 21 months.
The Panthers’ bid to match the best 12-game start in NHL history ended Monday night, when a furious third-period comeback fell short in a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers. The Devils have been off since Saturday night, when they completed a three-game West Coast road trip by overcoming a late one-goal deficit to edge the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in a shootout.
Florida, with its loss Monday, became the final NHL team to suffer a regulation defeat. At 10-1-1, the Panthers missed a chance to match the 1994-95 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres as the only teams to collect 23 points in the first 12 games. The Penguins were 11-0-1 (wins-losses-ties) while the Sabres were 11-0-1 (wins-losses-overtime losses).
“We’re not going to win all the games in a season,” Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas said. “This was a tough one for us, but I think that’s the beauty of back-to-backs — to be able to put it behind us and focus on the task (Tuesday).”
The Panthers outshot the Rangers 45-18 on Monday yet dug themselves too big a hole, falling behind 4-0 in the second period. Florida almost tied the game in the third, when Eetu Luostarinen scored 20 seconds after the faceoff, Sam Reinhart scored with 1:26 remaining and Patric Hornqvist narrowed the gap to one with 40.1 seconds left.
The Panthers threatened to force overtime in the waning seconds, but Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin stopped Mackenzie Weegar with 11 seconds to go and Jacob Trouba blocked a shot by Jonathan Huberdeau just before time expired.
“I love the third, how we were able to bounce back a bit,” Reinhart said. “We’re going to hope to bring that energy into (Tuesday).”
The Devils’ comeback Saturday allowed them to author an energetic end to their trek through California. New Jersey opened the trip with a 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2 before a 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday in which the Devils’ Pavel Zacha forced the extra session by scoring with 24 seconds left in regulation.
The Devils appeared headed for another narrow loss Saturday before Janne Kuokkanen scored the tying goal with 2:56 left in the third. The Sharks’ Logan Couture and New Jersey’s Jesper Bratt traded goals in the first period, and Damon Severson notched the game-winner in the third.
“When you get a chance to finish the game like that and the icing on the cake to a road trip, it’s a great feeling,” Severson said.
The Panthers and Devils last played each other Feb. 11, 2020, when visiting Florida earned a 5-3 win.
–Field Level Media