BOSTON -- Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon may have to change his cellphone number.
He's either receiving miserable news about his injured players from "the Grim Reaper" (trainer Dave Zenobi) or calls from other general managers trying to pilfer one of his top prospects in a quick-fix trade before the April 3 deadline.
Unfortunately, the news was the worst Thursday morning for forward Kris Versteeg, whose injury-plagued second season with the Panthers ended as he faces major knee surgery.
The news didn't get any better after another poor start proved fatal in a 4-1 defeat to the Boston Bruins at a sold-out TD Garden for Florida's fifth-straight defeat.
The Panthers picked a bad time to play the Bruins, who lead the league in fewest goals allowed, as they were coming off a bitter loss to the Penguins in which they blew a two-goal lead in the third period.
Only the loss of free-agent Patriots receiver Wes Welker to Denver angered Boston sports fans more.
The Panthers have lost eight of their last nine and are sinking deeper into the NHL basement, while Boston is one point behind Eastern Conference-leading Montreal.
"I feel bad for (Versteeg), our team and our fans," Tallon said. "We had a pretty good team last year. To have this happen is frustrating. I'm actually confused beyond the life of me why this is happening. It is happening; we got to deal with it and we got to get better.
"I'm listening to everything from everyone. There are a lot of vultures out there who want our top players. We're not going to do anything emotionally or anything to disrupt the future of this team just to Band-Aid something for this year."
Versteeg, 26, who signed a four-year deal worth $17.6 million after scoring 23 goals with 54 points last season, will finish with two goals and two assists in 10 games.
Trailing 2-0 in the first period for the ninth time (all losses) in their last 11 games, the Panthers pushed back in the second when emerging forward Shawn Matthias added his latest highlight-reel goal with a sensational shorthander at 3:10.
A retreating Matthias made a head-first poke-check steal from rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton. He sprang to his feet and then backhanded it past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who made 29 other saves to improve to 6-1 with a sub-.100 GAA against Florida.
It was the first shortie allowed by the Bruins, who, oddly, own the 30th-ranked power-play unit at home.
"It's a lucky goal," said Matthias, who has five goals in his last eight games. "We got to get more of those. We got to start winning some games. Can't score one goal and expect to win. ... Here we are again, just another frustrating loss."
The Bruins' top-ranked PK unit blanked the Panthers on two opportunities to extend Florida's power-play drought to eight games (0 for 16).
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen felt it was time to give rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom a mental day off after four straight losses in which he allowed at least one goal before 2:35 of the first period, including three on the first shot.
At least struggling backup Scott Clemmensen waited for the second shot at 3:55, when defenseman Zdeno Chara beat him on a screened slapper from the point.
The Bruins made it 2-0 at 14:56 when Patrice Bergeron finished off a tic-tac-toe rush with slumping defenseman Brian Campbell adding to his league-worst minus-19 rating.
Clemmensen settled down and made several quality saves in the second period to keep the deficit at one heading into the third.
"We've got to find a way to just get some puck luck and get that first goal," Dineen said. "I thought Clem had a solid game. ... We'll keep searching for answers."
The Bruins iced it at 12:43 of the third when Shawn Thornton tucked in his own deflected pass through the crease. Bergeron added an empty-netter.
Jovo may play Saturday
Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski, 36, who has played just five games this season (lower-body injury), traveled to Boston and, after skating in the morning, said he's hopeful to play on Saturday at home against the Islanders.
"It's definitely a trying time," Jovanovski said.
(c)2013 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services