The Florida Panthers got off to a real rocky start, then rebounded to put on a show-stopping performance before ultimately dropping their tenth-straight (WTF?) against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in a shootout.
Sergei Bobrovsky turned in a franchise-record, 52-save performance to enable Columbus to steal two points.
After Tomas Fleischmann botched a quick 2-on-1 chance, Nick Foligno opened the scoring with a wraparound goal at the 1:07 mark. Scott Hartnell and Dalton Prout picked up the helpers on Foligno's eleventh of the season.
The Blue Jackets struck again midway through the first period on Cam Atkinson's breakaway tally. Atkinson easily beat a disinterested-looking Roberto Luongo with Kerby Rychel and Prout drawing the assists. Fleischmann wiped out deep in the Columbus zone and Erik Gudbranson failed to hold the puck in the zone to help send the Blue Jackets the other way.
Things didn't get any better to start the second as Boone Jenner put the Blue Jackets up by three with a rebound goal just 31 seconds into the frame. Rychel and Atkinson each picked up their second point of the night with assists. Jenner also scored against the Cats in Monday night's tilt.
And then all of the sudden, the Panthers woke up. Nick Bjugstad provided the needed spark, The big center used his long reach to shovel a loose puck in the neutral zone to Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau promptly found an open Fleischmann, who roofed a shot over Bobrovsky. That's right people... Flash found the back of the net.
Bjugstad got a goal of his own 2:06 later, depositing the puck past Bobrovsky on the backhand with the assists going to Fleischmann and rookie sensation Aaron "Eggs" Ekblad.
The determined Cats kept coming and forged a tie a couple minutes later, thanks in part to Jordan Leopold's hooking minor. Bjugstad did the honors again, whipping the puck into the net from tough angle with Huberdeau and Gudbranson collecting the assists. The goal, Bjugstad's tenth of the campaign, went to review, but was quickly confirmed by replay.
Florida dominated the rest of the period, but could not take the lead despite outshooting the visitors 19-3. The Cats failed to convert on three additional power-play chances after Bjugstad's second goal.
The Panthers continued to bombard Bobrovsky in third period, again finishing with 19 shots on goal (to Columbus' 4), but couldn't solve the wall-like Russian.
After a scoreless overtime, the game went to the shootout where Ryan Johansen won it in the fourth round. Huberdeau, Jussi Jokinen, Brad Boyes and Bjugstad failed to dent "Bob", while Luongo stoned Atkinson, Matt Calvert and Foligno before finally yielding Johansen's winner.
Sorry folks, I'm going to take the glass half empty approach to this game. Yes, the Panthers came back from a 3-0 deficit and got a point, but they just should have won it outright, plain and simple. While most of the team was awful for most of the first period (how do you come out that flat against a team that just beat you?), Luongo didn't look sharp at all on the Blue Jackets two goals in the frame, especially Atkinson's breakaway, and Flash greatly helped the Columbus cause with two needless mistakes in the offensive zone. The Cats' attack on the heroic Bobrovsky over the final two periods was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, only the Bjugstad line was able to find the back of the net. The other three lines came up empty, despite all the shots on goal, something Jan has been pointing out in the comments section as a bugaboo for weeks now. The Panthers have shown us lately they can put together forty or so minutes of great hockey (they did it last night and in the game before in Detroit); it's time to start doing it for the full sixty. If the Panthers are on the wrong side of the playoff equation come spring, it's games like this one that are going to stick out as the reason. You can't keep letting points slip away when you are the better team. On a positive note, the Cats did gain a point on both the Bruins and Maple Leafs!
Odds & Sods
- Nick Bjugstad's tour de force in the second frame tied the franchise record for points in a period and vaulted him to the top of the team scoring race with 15. It was the second time Big Nick has accomplished the feat so far this season.
- Ryan Johansen's game-winner was Columbus' first goal in the shootout in 2014-15. Figures...
- The Panthers bagged their three goals in an astonishing 4:37 span. The three-goal rally to tie was the first since a March 16, 2013 tilt against the New York Islanders that the Cats also ended up losing 4-3.
- Tomas Kopecky and Aaron Ekblad led the Panthers with 6 shots on goal apiece. Matt Calvert led the Blue Jackets with 3.
- Shawn Thornton and Dalton Prout had a nice little tussle late in the first period.
- Jonathan Huberdau has 4 assists in his last 5 games and has been a much more effective player since being placed on a line with Bjugstad. It would be nice for Hubs to find the back of the net more often though, just saying...
- Sergei Bobrovsky raised his lifetime record against the Panthers to a sparkling 8-1, including six wins in a row. Can we get the backup next time out, please.
- Go back to Ohio and check out The Cannon for more on the Panthers latest loss to the Blue Jackets.