Sports

Struggling Florida Panthers shut out by Flames for seventh home loss in a row

Call it the NHL Awful-Break.

That’s what it looks like for the Florida Panthers, who had a six-game winning streak interrupted by this year’s NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25.

Since then, the Panthers are 5-11-2, including a lifeless 3-0 home loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday.

It was the Panthers’ seventh consecutive home loss, tying a dubious franchise record set in 2003. Florida’s next game is also at home, on Thursday against the Boston Bruins, who have the best record in the NHL.

The Panthers, who were the highest-scoring team in the NHL one month ago, have been shut out three times this season — all of them since Feb. 1.

Even Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, who entered Sunday on a five-game goal streak and a team-high 27 goals, was stopped by Calgary’s Cam Talbot, who made 38 saves.

“We made [Talbot] look good,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was good, but we didn’t have enough traffic at the net.”

Florida’s power play went 0-for-3 on Sunday, and its penalty kill failed on its only opportunity, and the problems seem to be more than just physical.

Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad indicated as much when he met with the media after Sunday’s game.

“I’m not sure,” Ekblad said when asked what it will take to get the Panthers back on the prowl. “We will regroup on Tuesday. We need to find a way to get our confidence back.”

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Ekblad scoffed when asked if it was now time for the Panthers — who trail the Toronto Maple Leafs by five points for the third and final Atlantic Division playoff spot with 16 games to go — to be desperate.

“I think desperation set in a while ago,” Ekblad said. “We just didn’t have it tonight or at least enough to get it done. I think we all realize the situation we’re in.”

Ekblad, though, did make a telling comment about the different style of hockey at this point in the season.

“Maybe we took for granted how difficult it was to win in the second half of the year,” he said. “I’ve always liked to look at it as a completely different league in the second half of the season.

“It’s not as easy to score goals. It’s a much tighter game. We haven’t found a way to crack that code yet, and we need to.”

Calgary got one goal in each period — from Johnny Gaudreau, Milan Lucic and TJ Brodie, in that order. The Flames would’ve had another score if not for Panthers rookie goalie Sam Montembeault stopping Gaudreau on a first-period penalty shot.

Panthers starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was rested after suffering a “tweak” in his lower body during warmups.

The Panthers — as mentioned by team captain Aleksander Barkov — showed some energy in the second period, producing a 16-6 advantage in shots on goal.

“We just couldn’t get the puck in,” Barkov said, “and then we didn’t have the push at the end [in the third], and that’s unacceptable.

“Like many times before, we have to forget these bad games. We need to simplify, get more pucks to the net, basic stuff, simple stuff.

It’s not going to be tic-tac-toe, backdoor tap-ins.”

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