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The Panthers were the ‘Comeback Cats’ the last few seasons. This year? Not so much yet

The Panthers were the ‘Comeback Cats’ the last few seasons. This year? Not so much yet

The Florida Panthers proudly embraced the “Comeback Cats” nickname given to them over the past couple seasons for their frequent late-game rallies. They won a staggering 17 games over the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons when trailing going into the final period — including a league-leading 11 last season when they won the Presidents’ Trophy.

Those comeback abilities haven’t manifested yet this year.

Entering Sunday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Panthers are 0-6-1 this year when trailing after two periods. They are one of 12 teams to not make a third-period comeback at any point through the first five weeks of the season. Florida trailed by two goals or fewer in six of those seven games entering the third.

Saturday’s 5-4 shootout loss against the Calgary Flames, a game in which Florida trailed 3-2 entering the third period, was the first time the Panthers picked up a point when trailing. Eetu Luostarinen tied the game 1:12 into the third period when he poked a loose puck past Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom and Matthew Tkachuk evened the game again with 6:14 left in regulation when he tipped in a long shot attempt from Sam Bennett.

But Florida’s “tentative first period,” as coach Paul Maurice described it,” had Florida playing from a deficit for the bulk of the game. Calgary led 1-0 at the first intermission and took a 2-0 lead 50 seconds into the second period before the Panthers started to find life.

“That does us no good,” Maurice said of the team’s first period Saturday, “and it’s not the game that we want to play. We got to the game we want to play [later on]. We just got a little faster, played a little quicker. Fear is not the right word; it looked like we didn’t want to make a mistake.”

On the other side of the situation, Florida is a near-perfect 7-0-1 this season when it enters the third period with a lead and 2-1-0 when tied entering the final 20 minutes of regulation.

This and that

The Panthers lead the NHL with 87 minor penalties committed. That’s seven more than the Los Angeles Kings, who have played two more games.

This includes three players of eight players in the league with double-digit minor penalties. Bennett is tied with Buffalo’s Rasmus Dalin for the league lead with 12, while Tkachuk and Radko Gudas each have 11. Tkachuk also has one major penalty and a game misconduct.

For comparison, the Panthers committed 299 minor penalties last season, an average of 3.6 per game…

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