"A big emphasis on our game was to start on time, start quick. I thought we did that," Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. "That's one of the big positives of this game that we can take out. We had a good start, got two quick goals. We've just got to keep moving forward here."
Hot out of the gate, the Panthers found the back of the net on two of their first three shots. After Ekblad beat Petr Mrazek to give Florida a 1-0 lead and break the ice at 8:36 of the first period, Brian Boyle quickly double the advantage to 2-0 with another goal just 16 seconds later at 8:54.
Mrazek went on to finish with 21 saves on 23 shots.
At 9:35, Brett Pesce sent a one-timer from beyond the left circle past Sergei Bobrovsky to cut Carolina's deficit down to 2-1. Then, at 14:20, Martin Necas took a pass from Dougie Hamilton and buried a one-timer of his own to even things up at 2-2 heading into the first intermission.
In the second period, Hamilton scored at 17:45 to put the Hurricanes on top 3-2.
"We got a good start, but we didn't take care of it," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said.
Entering the night ranking second in the league in third-period goals (32), Florida unfortunately couldn't find the goal it needed to tie the game over the final 20 minutes of regulation. Keeping the team within striking distance, however, Bobrovsky made 16 of his 30 total saves in the third.
With 1:02 left in regulation, Andrei Svechnikov cashed in on an empty-netter for the 4-2 final.
"It was a tight game," Bobrovsky said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get the points tonight."
Just their sixth regulation loss through 23 games, the Panthers, who saw their three-game winning streak snapped with tonight's defeat, still sit at a very solid 12-6-5 on the season.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday's loss in Raleigh…
1. BACK AT IT AGAIN
Ekblad picked up right where he left off last game.
After recording the first multi-goal game of his career -- including the overtime game-winner -- in Thursday's win over Anaheim, the 23-year-old defenseman opened the scoring for the Panthers tonight, beating Mrazek with a very slick backhand shot to make it 1-0 at 8:36 of the first period.
Video: FLA@CAR: Ekblad dekes and scores backhand goal
Kicking it up a notch on offense as of late, Ekblad has recorded 12 points (five goals, seven assists) over his last 17 games. Overall, the 23-year-old defenseman has notched 14 points (five goals, nine assists) this season. His five goals currently pace Florida's defenseman.
In addition to his goal, Ekblad also had four shots and two blocks over 24:02 of ice time tonight.
2. BOYLE-ING POINT
Just 16 seconds after Ekblad's opening goal, Boyle got in on the action.
Taking a pass from Colton Sceviour after Anton Stralman stole the puck in the offensive zone, Boyle made a quick deke before sending a wrist shot top-shelf to extend the lead to 2-0 at 8:54.
Video: FLA@CAR: Boyle roofs wrist shot in close
"It was a great forecheck, a great steal by [Stralman] coming down," Boyle told FOX Sports Florida of the play. "Then we won a battle. [Sceviour], in a lot of traffic, makes a real heads up play. I just kind of went to the net. He put it right on my tape. That's a nice little perk for me."
In 15 games since signing a one-year deal with the Panthers on Oct. 20, Boyle has certainly brought a ton of value to the lineup. Playing a top-six role, the 34-year-old center has registered four goals, four assists, 28 hits and 18 blocks while also winning 59.1 percent of his faceoffs.
Against the Hurricanes, Boyle went 6-for-8 (75 percent) in the circle.
3. A MAN DOWN
The Panthers were down an important player for a big portion of tonight's game.
After getting hit in the face with a puck in the first period, Keith Yandle left the game and did not return until a few minutes into the third. Upon his return, the 33-year-old defenseman, sporting a full cage, came incredibly close to setting up a potential game-tying goal with a passing attempt.
"He makes a great play," Quenneville said. "We almost had an empty-netter right off the bat."
Named the NHL's "Third Star of the Week," Yandle has been playing some of his best hockey of the season in recent weeks. Leading Florida's defensemen in points (18), he's notched one goal and 13 assists over his last 12 games. Of his 18 points, 11 have come while on the power play.
"He's certainly been playing well," Quenneville said. "It was good to see him back."
4. TWO HUNDRED FOR ACCIARI
Noel Acciari skated in the 200th game of his NHL career tonight.
Signing a three-year deal with the Panthers as a free agent this summer, the 27-year-old center has already carved out a crucial role for himself in the lineup this season. The team's fourth-line center, he's posted four goals, one assist, 30 hits and 34 blocks while skating 14:56 per game.
An important penalty killer, he's also accumulated 46:22 shorthanded minutes in 20 games.
After leading Providence College to an NCAA championship in 2015, Acciari, who entered the NHL as an undrafted free agent, spent four seasons with Boston Bruins organization before joining the Panthers. In his 200 career games, he's notched 36 points, including 22 goals.
In honor of his milestone, Acciari contributed an assist and a game-high five blocks tonight.
5. SABRES HEAD SOUTH
The Panthers won't have to wait long for a shot to get back into the win column.
Returning to South Florida, they'll wrap up a back-to-back set when they host the Sabres at BB&T Center on Sunday. An important divisional battle, the Panthers suffered a 3-2 shootout loss in the only previous meeting between the two teams this season on Oct. 11 in Buffalo.
"It's part of being a pro, back-to-backs all the time," Ekblad said. "We've got to find a way to be a little better tomorrow. Ten percent [more] from each guy and we're going to be fine."
While the team has yet to announce a starting goaltender, Sam Montembeault has closed out each back-to-back so far this season. In six appearances, the 23-year-old owns a 3-1-1 record -- including three shootout wins -- with a 2.96 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.
The Sabres (10-9-3) have lost nine of their last 10 games.
"It's a team that's really desperate for a win, and we're sitting in our building there," Quenneville said. "Let's be excited about it. Disappointed, but get yourself angry in the right way tomorrow."
Overall, Florida owns a 2-1-1 record in the second half of back-to-backs this season.