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TIME: 7 p.m.
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The Florida Panthers snapped a losing streak Friday evening, but they are hoping to extend one for the New Jersey Devils when the two teams meet Saturday night at the Prudential Center.
After losing five in a row, the Panthers (5-8-2) beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday for their first win in nearly two weeks. Meanwhile, the Devils (9-4-2) lost four straight after starting the season winning nine of their first 11 games.
Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, who has 19 points in 15 games, assisted on three of the Panthers’ four goals Friday. Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov each had a goal and an assist.
It was only the third time this season the Panthers allowed two goals or fewer. They entered play Friday surrendering more than four goals per game, worst in the league.
However, Roberto Luongo stopped 24 of 25 shots and passed Curtis Joseph for the fourth most wins in NHL history with 455.
“Luongo made some amazing saves, and it was nice to win a tight game,” coach Bob Boughner told reporters after the Panthers scored a pair of empty-netters to pad the result.
The Panthers won two of their first three contests this season and only have three victories since, with losing streaks of three and five games mixed in.
“They’ve got to start believing in themselves a little more,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said to The Sun Sentinel. “We’ve got a young team, young core, good coaches, they’re learning. We just have to be more consistent.”
For Devils coach John Hynes, it’s a simple explanation as to why his club is struggling after starting the season on fire.
“You can’t be interested in playing the right way, you have to be committed to playing the right way, and I would say the past few games there have been times we were just interested in playing the right way,” Hynes said.
In each of the Devils’ last three games, they started fast by scoring the game-opening goal within the first several minutes. They were unable to sustain that early momentum throughout the full 60 minutes.
Their most recent loss was a 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers. The Devils let a third-period lead slip away before Leon Draisaitl finished them off with an overtime winner.
“It’s been a little slide for our group, a little adversity here early on,” said Devils winger Kyle Palmieri, who returned to the lineup after a six-game injury absence on Thursday. “If anything is going to give us some momentum in the month it’s going to be playing well in a back-to-back this weekend.”
The Devils play only their second set of back-to-back games this season when they host the Panthers on Saturday and then skate in Chicago against the Blackhawks on Sunday.
“We built a pretty good resume the first 10 games of the season,” said Devils center Brian Boyle, who scored his first goal with the team in Thursday’s loss. “We’ve got to get back to that.”
The Panthers are in the midst of a back-to-back this weekend, as well, of course. This is their third set of back-to-backs this season. In each of the first two, the Panthers lost the first game and won the second. This time they are in position to sweep a back-to-back.
Recent history is on the Panthers’ side when it comes to playing the Devils. The Panthers swept the three-game season series against the Devils in 2016-17 and won five of the last six games between the clubs.