In a critical matchup for two teams fighting to reach the postseason, the Florida Panthers visit the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
Both clubs have nine games left in the regular season and both sit outside the race for an Eastern Conference wild-card slot.
Florida (36-30-7, 79 points) is three points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final slot, while the Senators (35-33-5, 75 points) face even a steeper climb.
The Panthers reignited their hopes of reaching the playoffs with a seven-game point streak (6-0-1) from March 4-20. However, Florida is now 0-3-0 since the end of that streak, including Saturday's 4-3 home loss to the New York Rangers.
Florida enjoyed a dominant first period that included a 12-3 shots margin and a 2-0 lead at the first intermission. New York then scored the game's next four goals, all within the span of 17:28 bridging the second and third periods.
The Rangers simply "took over," Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said.
"They played well in the second period, and in the third period they defended well. They didn't give us that much. Now we've just got to regroup and move on."
Barkov scored twice Saturday, giving him 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) over a 10-game point streak. Barkov is a game away from matching his personal best of an 11-game streak, set earlier this season.
Carter Verhaeghe also has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) during an eight-game point streak.
Conceding goals has been more of an issue than scoring for the Panthers during their three-game slide. Sergei Bobrovsky's strong play is a big season why Florida is still in the playoff race, but the goalie has allowed nine goals on 68 shots over his last two outings.
Since Bobrovsky has started 19 of Florida's last 21 games, fatigue might be a factor in the veteran goalie's recent struggles. Unless the Panthers want to rest Bobrovsky and give backup Alex Lyon a start on Monday, expect Bobrovsky to be back in net against Ottawa for another must-win game.
After a 7-2 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, the Senators couldn't build on the momentum, dropping a 5-3 road game to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. Ottawa fought back from a 3-1 deficit to make it a 3-3 game after two periods, but ran out of steam.
The loss was "frustrating, because those are crucial points at end of the season," Senators captain Brady Tkachuk told the Ottawa Sun.
Though Tkachuk scored his seventh goal in his last seven games, he wasn't pleased with his performance on Saturday.
"I thought I could have been better and given the team a better chance to win," Tkachuk said. "Those are opportunities there where I have to step up and take it, and that didn't happen tonight."
In his second career NHL start, Dylan Ferguson stopped 30 of 34 Devils shots. Though Ferguson has played well in his two games with Ottawa, Mads Sogaard is more likely to start against the Panthers.
The Panthers earned a 5-3 home win over the Senators on Oct. 29. They will meet again on April 6 in Sunrise, Fla.
--Field Level Media
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