SUNRISE, Fla. -- Relaxing in Florida’s warm, gentle breezes, trips to the Sunshine State normally go one of two ways for the Flyers.
Like the winter-time temperatures in Fort Lauderdale and Philadelphia, the differences in games are polar opposites.
Either, the difference in latitude provides a change in attitude, and the no-pressure environment in South Florida is a healthy respite from a long and grueling season. In that case, the Flyers usually put a hurtin’ on the lowly Panthers, like a 7-1 pounding in their last visit to BB&T Center on Jan. 26.
Or, a trip to South Florida presents an opportunity to get sidetracked in the sand and the surf, acting as a diversion to unhinge all of the good work the Flyers had done. In that case, the Flyers stoop to the Panthers’ level and turn in a clunker.
Last night was one of those nights, as the Flyers kicked off a stretch of 16 of 21 games away from Philadelphia in disappointing style. After sleepwalking through the first period, the Flyers fell behind 2-0 in the second period and never recovered in their 3-1 loss to the Panthers at BB&T Center.
It was the Flyers’ first regulation loss in 8 games, breaking a 6-0-1 run that began on Nov. 9 against Edmonton.
Sean Bergenheim scored both second period tallies for Florida. Wayne Simmonds tried to galvanize the Flyers in the third period with an overtime strike, but Florida controlled both the puck and the play for much of the third period before netting an insurance goal.
The Panthers dedicated the press box at BB&T Center yesterday in memory of former Flyers and Florida coach Roger Neilson. The Hockey Hall of Famer, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 69, was the Panthers’ inaugural coach. He was 96-57-33 in parts of three seasons with the Flyers (1997-2000) ... The Flyers’ 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on Nov. 13 was the NHL’s most-watched November game since 2001 ... Vinny Lecavalier will return to Tampa Bay for the first time today since his $32 million buyout by the Lightning last summer.