SUNRISE, Fla. – Rookie goaltender Carter Hart was less than seven minutes away from his first NHL shutout.
Instead, he was handed a crushing 2-1 defeat Saturday night by the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center.
In Hart’s first NHL road appearance of his young career, Jonathan Huberdeau finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play by scoring from the right circle with 1 minute, 6 seconds left to snap a 1-1 tie. A defensive breakdown led to a three-on-two, and the Panthers capitalized, ruining a brilliant performance by Hart (34 saves).
“I think we shot ourselves in the foot,” said defenseman Radko Gudas, who knocked a puck out of midair near the goal line to prevent a goal midway through the third period, keeping the Flyers ahead, 1-0. “We had the game under control. We were doing lots of good things ... and then we just collapsed the last few minutes.”
On Huberdeau’s game-winner, Gudas said he and defenseman Robert Hagg “didn’t have a good gap for us to cover. We just have pay more attention to details, like a controlled breakout that ends up in our net. That’s unacceptable.”
The 20-year-old Hart looked unflappable all night.
“He was there for us," Gudas said, "and we let him down, for sure. ... It sucks not getting any points out of here when I thought we had the game under control.”
Hart has a 2.25 goals-against average in four games.
“I felt good. I thought we did a good job of keeping things to the outside, and collapsing the net front so they didn’t get many second or third opportunities,” Hart said. “We just have to put this one behind us and be ready for our next challenge."
With 9:50 left, Hart stopped Aleksander Barkov on the doorstep, and the Flyers maintained their lead.
But the Panthers ended Hart’s shutout bid when Mike Hoffman scored a power-play goal from the right circle, taking a slick pass from Huberdeau and whipping a one-timer past the rookie. That tied the game at 1-1 with 6:44 left.
The goal was scored after James van Riemsdyk was called for hooking Colton Sceviour in the neutral zone while the Flyers had 15 seconds left on a power play.
Van Riemsdyk disagreed with the call.
“It’s a little bit suspect. I’ve never heard of a hooking call with one hand on your stick,” he said.
Before the goal, the Flyers again failed on a power play, showing why they have inexplicably fallen to the bottom of the league in that category.
The Flyers jumped out to a 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the game, when defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who grew up near the Panthers’ arena and attended their games as a kid, ripped a left-circle shot past James Reimer. The goal drew cheers from the thousands of Flyers fans, including his family and friends.
It was Gostisbehere’s third goal in 10 games against the Panthers, and his second at the BB&T Center.
Jordan Weal, who replaced the injured Nolan Patrick, got into the zone and made a nice pass to Gostisbehere.
“I saw a chance for me to get up there in the play and I yelled before he gave it to me,” Gostisbehere said after scoring his fifth goal of the season. “I was just waiting for him to give me a little flash screen to take the goalie’s eyes away, so I picked my spot, and I had a lot of time.”
Florida, playing on back-to-back nights, failed to get a shot on a five-on-three power play that lasted 40 seconds in the first period. Sean Couturier led the Flyers on the penalty kill.
The Flyers later had a golden chance when Florida had a five-on-four power play, but Couturier could not handle Claude Giroux’s two-on-one pass.
“The biggest thing tonight is we didn’t capitalize on some of the chances we did have,” interim coach Scott Gordon said.
The Flyers will finish the five-game road trip by playing Carolina on Monday and Nashville on Tuesday. ... Patrick, who has an undisclosed upper-body injury, participated in Saturday’s morning practice but isn’t expected back in the lineup until Thursday against visiting Carolina. ... In the World Junior tournament, Flyers prospect Joel Farabee had a hat trick Friday, as the United States blasted Kazakhstan, 8-2. ... Hart has allowed just one first-period goal in his four starts. ... The Flyers won 69.4 percent of the faceoffs.