The Florida Panthers have only played two games, and they have already gagged up two third period leads, this time dropping a 5-4 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a fun to watch, but ultimately frustrating home opener at BB&T Center.
Florida looked out of sync and a bit sloppy to start. Not at all surprising given the lack of early season game action. James Reimer was solid, keeping the better Blue Jackets off the board until back-to-back penalties to Frank Vatrano and twenty seconds later to Mike Matheson set the stage for Columbus’ first goal. Matheson can’t take that penalty with his team already a man down.
After applying pressure, Cam Atkinson passed back out to Artemi Panarin in the left faceoff circle and he fed Zach Werenski for a one-timer that easily beat Reimer at 13:29.
The Blue Jackets went up by two 3:51 later when Keith Yandle coughed the puck up to Josh Anderson as he was exiting his own zone, allowing Panarin to streak in on a breakaway. The Bread Man made no mistake, going top shelf for his third goal of the young season.
Florida finished the frame on a high note, halving the deficit with 11 ticks left on the clock when Aleksander Barkov found Evgenii Dadonov with a cross-ice pass and he finished off the odd-man rush by blasting the puck into the open side of net. Kudos to Barkov, who carried the puck from end-to-end to make the play that gave him his first point of 2018-19.
The late first period goal lit a fire under the Cats and Dadonov promptly returned the favor to Barkov, finding the captain with a perfect cross that Barkov deftly lifted into the top of the goal over a sprawling Joonas Korpisalo 6:29 into the frame.
Newcomer Troy Brouwer scored his first as a Panther 2:28 later to give Florida its first lead. Mark Pysyk picked up a Columbus turnover near the blue line and wristed the puck towards the goal and Brouwer was able to deflect it home.
Alex Petrovic took the only penalty of the period at the 11:40 mark, tripping Atkinson, and the Blue Jackets quickly made the Panthers pay, scoring 36 seconds later. After playing catch with Werenski, Panarin found Anthony Duclair in the left circle and he fired the puck into the top corner of the net. Some nice puck movement by Columbus and a sweet snipe by Duclair, but Reimer did look a little slow going side to side.
To their credit, the Cats shook off the goal and continued to roll, and they were rewarded with yet another late period goal. Nick Bjugstad picked off Ryan Murray’s attempt to clear and dumped down low to Barkov. Barkov passed back to Yandle at the opposite point and he went back cross ice to Dadonov, who picked up his third point of the night with a centering feed that Bjugstad slipped between Korpisalo’s wickets at 19:51. A pretty piece of work, as four of the five Panthers on the ice touched the puck.
Florida absolutely dominated Columbus in the second period, out-shooting the Blue Jackets by a 22-5 margin and lighting the lamp three times. It’s not inconceivable the Cats will not play a better period than that this season. They likely will, but who knows... maybe not. A shame about the Duclair goal, the only blight on twenty minutes of near perfection.
A early Columbus goal 75 seconds into the third ended the Panthers spell of dominance and changed the tone of the game.
Boone Jenner retrieved the puck on the side boards after Scott Harrington missed the net and quickly fired a shot that deflected off Yandle and by a helpless Reimer to tie the game at four apiece. Riley Nash won an offensive zone faceoff to start things off.
The game remained knotted up until Columbus struck with 2:46 left to go. Panarin just beat Dadonov to a puck in the slot and swatted it back to Markus Nutivaara at blue line. Nutivaara put a long shot on goal that Reimer stopped, but couldn’t cover. With Pysyk and Matheson facing the wrong way, Atkinson was able to find the loose puck and backhand it into the yawning net.
A couple of little things led to this untimely goal. One, Panarin made a heads up play in the neutral zone, deflecting a pass that was too high for him to handle into the Panthers zone, negating what most likely would have been icing. Two, when the puck came to Reimer behind the net, he went against the grain with it, back into the Columbus forecheck, instead of safely passing off to Matheson, who was uncovered and had the room to carry it out of danger.
After testing Korpisalo 33 times over the first forty minutes, the Panthers only produced 8 shots in the third. A nifty give-and-go play between Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck almost produced a go-ahead goal, but Huberdeau failed to convert, Jared McCann had a glorious chance to tie the game with ten seconds to go, but he too failed to finish, with Korpisalo coming up with the game-saving stop.
Five Reasons They Lost
- The Columbus power play made mince meat of the Panthers penalty kill going a tidy two for three. Granted, the first one was a 5-on-3 situation, but the Blue Jackets made it look easy and the second power-play goal only took 36 seconds to produce.
- Overall, the Cats won the faceoff war by a rather robust margin, but key losses in the defensive zone were costly, with three of Columbus’ goals coming soon after faceoff wins in the Florida end.
- Bad mistakes. Matheson’s tripping penalty with the Panthers already down a man, Yandle’s turnover on the Panarin goal, Reimer’s wrong way play behind the net late in the game. That’s three goals in a game the Cats lost by one. Matheson also whiffed on an attempted check in the third that almost led to another high-quality scoring chance.
- No goals from the second line and third line in the game. Florida’s first line looked deadly and the fourth line managed to produce one. Other than the late Hubderdeau and Trocheck chance, I thought that line didn’t do very much, especially Mike Hoffman, who registered just one shot on goal. I do want to single out the play of Frank Vatrano, who showed a lot of effort and was tough to take off the puck all night.
- Lack of killer instinct. For the second straight game, the Panthers entered the third period with the lead and ended up with a loss. The level of the Cats in the third was nowhere near that of the second, which was disappointing. Sure, Reimer wasn’t at his best, but Jenner’s hustle was not matched on the sequence that led to the tying goal and the Panthers had 16 minutes after that to take the lead before Atkinson scored and didn’t. Saturday is only game three of the campaign and a win against Vancouver already seems vitally important after points were given away in games one and two.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)