When it was over, there was no mistaking Bob Boughner’s irritation.
His team had dropped a 3-2 decision to the New Jersey Devils in a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
The Panthers fell to 2-4-3 overall, 2-2-1 in their past five, and 1-2-0 after three games in the New York City metropolitan area.
And yet he was still emphasizing positives.
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Such as: the Panthers outshot New Jersey 37-26 and out-attempted the Devils 81-48. And while nine games have been played, 72 remain.
“There’s a lot of season left,” Boughner said. “There’s 90 percent of the season left. We just have to get on a roll.”
In order to start stringing together wins, strong special teams would help. Against the Devils, the power play that went 0 for 4. The Panthers also lamented not finishing breakaways and odd man rushes.
“If we bury a third of those chances then we’re coming up with a win,” said Michael Matheson, who played a supporting role in Kyle Palmieri’s semi-controversial game opening goal with 9.4 seconds left in the period.
Following an offensive zone face-off win by Nico Hischier, Damon Severson fired a slapshot that James Reimer attempted to block away. Instead, Palmieri who drove to the top of the blue paint while engaged with Michael Matheson, had the puck bounce off his body and into the net.
Believing Reimer had been interfered with, Boughner challenged the goal but after an extended review the on-ice ruling was upheld.
“I’m still very confused on what happened,” Boughner said. “Reims had to stick his arm out to make a blocker save and the contact with the goalie pushes the puck in. So I don’t know what the rule is anymore.”
A 1-0 deficit is manageable. A 3-0 hole is a challenge. Which is where the Panthers found themselves at the second intermission.
Reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall scored his second of the season 3:05 into the second to increase the Panthers’ deficit to 2-0. Standing alone in the slot, Hall took a pass from Palmieri, then beat Reimer stick side clean. Ten minutes and 16 seconds later Blake Coleman’s deflection goal pushed the Devils’ lead to 3-0.
Florida has been outscored 20-8 in second periods this season.
“If we had the exact answer I think we would have fixed it,” Matheson said about the season-long second period slides. “We come in very focused on each game and maybe when we come in for the first intermission we relax a bit.”
Matheson’s driving backhander with 4:57 left in regulation ended Keith Kinkaid’s shutout bid, and Mike Hoffman’s added his fifth of the season with 14.1 seconds left.
“We played hard,” Boughner said. “Just didn’t capitalize on our chances. We played well enough to win.”
Hoffman’s goal was his fourth in as many games, and with a secondary assist on it, Evgenii Dadonov extended his personal point streak to six games. Kinkaid made 35 saves, while Reimer stopped 23-of-26 shots.
The Panthers have not been shutout this season. Mark Pysyk and Denis Malgin were scratched. Derek MacKenzie missed his eighth straight game with an upper body injury.
The teams will meet twice more in the regular season, Nov. 26 and April 6. Both games will be at the BB&T Center. Following the game, the team left for Finland, where it will play a back-to-back Thursday and Friday against the Winnipeg Jets.