The Florida Panthers inexplicable woes against Columbus continued last night, as the reeling Blue Jackets edged the Cats 2-1 to snap a six-game losing streak. It was Florida's ninth straight loss against the Metropolitan Division squad.
Boone Jenner notched the deciding goal midway through the third period after Aaron Ekblad's errant attempt to pass back behind the net to Brian Campbell ended up on his stick. Jenner threw the puck out in front and eventually banged home the rebound of rookie Kerby Rychel's shot.
Following up on Friday's excellent effort against Ottawa, the Panthers got off to a fast start, taking the game's first six shots on goal, but after failing to score on two early power plays, it was Columbus who got on the board first.
Michael Chaput found a wide-open Matt Calvert in front of the net, and he schooled Florida keeper Al Montoya, who finished with 21 saves, with a slick move for his third goal of the season. An out-of-position Nick Bjugstad was a couple strides behind Calvert on the play.
Ekblad would equalize with the Panthers on the power play early in the second period. The rookie defender took advantage of a stick-less Calvert and fired the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky with Sean Bergenheim providing the screen. Brad Boyes and Bergenheim collected the assists on the rookie's third goal. Ekblad is now tied for the team lead in points with 12.
Tomas Kopecky had a glorious chance to give the Cats the lead later in the frame, but was denied by Columbus netminder. "Bob" stopped the initial Kopecky shot and turned away Jimmy Hayes' rebound before quickly foiling Kopecky again with his stick.
Bobrovsky went on to stop all nine Panther shots in the third to make Jenner's second of the campaign stand up as the winner.
That was a pretty frustrating game to watch. The Panthers looked like the same team that was all over the Senators for the first ten minutes or so, but they couldn't finish and instead, let the Blue Jackets open the scoring and gain confidence. Columbus dominated the suddenly disinterested Cats physically, outhitting them 31-21. The Jackets also won the war in the faceoff dot, 31-25. Despite some of the imbalances on the stat sheet, the Panthers were just a goal away from claiming a point or two in this one. Unfortunately, they just didn't do enough to earn it. When you are trying to climb into a playoff spot and playing a depleted team at the bottom of the conference, the killer instinct has got to be there. Instead, the catatonic Cats chose to play down to the Blue Jackets level and let crucial points slip away. Now, the success of this mini road trip depends on coming out of Joe Louis Arena with a win tonight.
Odds & Ends
- After coming up with a season-high 46 shots against Ottawa, the Panthers only mustered 25 against the usually giving Columbus defense.
- Al Montoya had a solid outing starting for the second straight time in place of Roberto Luongo. Luongo should be back in the net tonight against the Red Wings.
- Kerby Rychel's helper on Boone Jenner's game-winner was his first NHL point in just his second career game. Rychel took the penalty that lead to Florida's only goal.
- The 2-1 final should not come as much of a surprise. The Panthers are 29th in goals scored this season, while the Blue Jackets were holding down the 28th spot entering the game.
- Jussi Jokinen returned to the lineup after a one-game absence and finished with two shots on goal and -1 rating.
- With 20 blocks, Columbus did plenty to help out their goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who raised his record to 6-8-1.
- Former Panther Jack Skille led all skaters with five shots on goal.
- If you're feeling a bit like fodder this morning, then jump in The Cannon.