It wasn't easy, but the Florida Panthers managed to kill two birds with one stone last night. The 3-2 win over Columbus was the club's first over the Blue Jackets since 2007 and more importantly, ended a five-game losing streak.The Panthers wrapped up the five-game homestand with a disappointing 1-3-1 record.
The teams took turns outplaying each other in the first period. Columbus was getting the better of things until a slashing penalty on Scott Hartnell at 11:37. The Panthers carried the play the rest of the way, but came up empty on a pair of power plays.
Jack Johnson bagged the game's first goal by blasting a shot past Roberto Luongo's glove at 1:08 of the second frame. Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno got the assists with some crisp passing in the Florida zone.
The Panthers struck back quickly, evening the tilt on Jonathan Huberdeau's ninth of the season. Huberdeau dug Brad Boyes' pass out of this skates and backhanded the puck by Curtis McElhinney. Aleksander Barkov picked up the secondary helper, giving him 10 points in his last 10 outings.
Midway through the period, Aaron Ekblad put the Cats on top with his seventh. Eggs took a shot from the blue line that was deflected on its way into the cage. Brian Campbell and Dave Bolland collected the assists on the even-strength marker.
Florida had Columbus on the ropes, but the Blue Jackets used a bunt to tie the game at two with 1:26 remaining in the stanza.
Swedish rookie Alexander Wennberg knocked Artem Anisimov's pass out of the air for his second career goal. The play went to review but Wennberg's stick was clearly under the bar, sending the teams to their respective dressing rooms in a dead heat.
The decisive moment of the third period came with 6:52 remaining, when Sean Bergenheim deflected Dmitry Kulikov's shot from the point by McElhinney to end years of futility at the hands of the Blue Jackets. A review was needed, but once again the goal stood. Alex Petrovic, just up from AHL San Antonio, also drew an assist for his second NHL point.
Bergenheim got high-sticked in the yap by Johnson on the play, but the Cats would fail to add to their lead on the power play.
The Blue Jackets would put heavy pressure on the Panthers in the waning moments with McElhinney on the bench for an extra attacker. Fortunately, Luongo was able to hold them at bay and put an end to Florida's five-game losing streak.
The win pulled Florida within six points of the New York Rangers for the second Wild Card spot. The Cats trail surging Boston by seven points with three games in hand, so the Bruins remain the most accessible target.
Odds & Ends
- The victory was Florida's first over Columbus since a 5-2 win on November 21, 2007, ending a ten-game slump. Not beating another perennial also-ran like the Blue Jackets for over seven yahrens is just another example of why this team is where it's at.
- Sean Bergenheim was all over the score sheet last night. Bergy had the GWG, 2 shots and a whopping 14 PIM.
- Roberto Luongo finished the game with 31 saves for his 17th win, while his counterpart Curtis McElhinney finished with 28, including sharp breakaway stops on Brandon Pirri and Aaron Ekblad in the second period.
- Ryan Johansen fired a game-high six shots at Luongo, but came up empty.
- Shawn Thornton returned to the fold after a lengthy layoff. Thornton finsihed with 2 shots on goal and four hits in 10:59 TOI.
- Alex Petrovic logged 11:05 TPI in his 2014-15 Panther debut. He did look a little shaky at first, but settled down and picked up a helper on Bergy's winner.
- Despite their recent slide, the Panthers are 5-5-1 in January and can end the month with a winning record if they beat New Jersey on Saturday.
- The Cannon has the other side of Florida's streak-buster, check it out.