The Florida Panthers have been one of the National Hockey League’s best teams when playing on home ice, posting an almost-perfect 14-1-0 record when playing at FLA Live Arena.
On the road? That’s an entirely different story.
After winning their first three games away from South Florida to begin the season, the Panthers have dropped each of their last seven road games — three in regulation, two in overtime and two in shootouts to pick up just four out of a possible 14 points in that span.
The Panthers’ road woes were on display again in Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues to start a three-game swing that continues with a game at the Arizona Coyotes on Friday and ends against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.
The Panthers have talked about trying to bottle their home energy when they go on the road — “bringing the swagger with us,” as defenseman Radko Gudas said pregame Tuesday.
It showed up in spurts Tuesday, primarily in the opening period, but fizzled at key times in the loss.
“We lost our game a little bit,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said. “We’ve just got to find a way to be a little better on the road. It’s not a 20-minute game or a 40-minute game on the road. It’s 60. It’s hard to win in this league on the road.”
The Panthers were the aggressors in the first and third periods, outshooting the Blues 32-14 and holding a 34-7 edge in scoring chances (including 15-1 in high-danger opportunities) in those 40 minutes.
But Florida was derailed by a lackluster second period. They were hit with three penalties in the span of four minutes, forced to play short-handed for the better part of the final seven minutes of the period. They were outshot 15-8 in the second period, allowed 16 scoring chances and seven high-danger chances that resulted in a pair of goals and enough momentum that St. Louis carried into the early portions of the third period to score a go-ahead goal.
“We got a little cute and a little sloppy,” Brunette said.
Tuesday’s loss also highlights another trend that has been evolving as of late with the Panthers. Their penchant for comeback wins isn’t always going to pan out in their favor.
They rallied three consecutive times last week, coming back from three-goal deficits to beat both the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres before erasing three separate one-goal deficits in a shootout win over the Blues.
They managed to tie the game up late on Tuesday on a Jonathan Huberdeau goal with about five and a half minutes left in regulation but had to settle for just one point after giving up the game winner about a minute into overtime.
“We’re sneaking away with wins,” defenseman Brandon Montour said. “We have to clean it up.”
Aleksander Barkov update
Aleksander Barkov’s return to the lineup after a three-week absence abruptly ended midway through the third period when he left with an undisclosed injury.
Brunette did not have an immediate update on Barkov’s status postgame other than saying he had “a little tweak” and that the new injury was not related to the knee injury that forced him to miss eight games.
Barkov scored the first goal of the game on a backhanded shot in the first period. He leads the Panthers with 10 goals.