Zach Werenski’s first career hat trick pushed the Columbus Blue Jackets to 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers and ruined Sergei Bobrovsky return to the Ohio capital, where he spent the previous seven seasons and won the Vezina Trophy twice.
The Panthers closed the decade doing something they have long had a penchant for, making the opposition’s backup goaltender look like an All-Star.
Florida fired 37 shots at unheralded Elvis Merzlikins, who posted his first win of the season, and were only able to light the lamp once, when Colton Scevior deflected Anton Stralman’s long shot in at 3:39 of the second period to tie the game. Mark Pysyk drew the secondary assist on Scevior’s fourth goal.
Werenski scored in the first period and twice in the third to bag his first career hat trick in his 270th NHL game.
The first goal of the three came at the 4:54 mark after Alexander Wennberg won an offensive zone draw against Brian Boyle and the puck went back to the waiting defenseman, who hammered it home.
Weresnski got his second of the night at 4:13 of the third when he took a pass from David Savard and moved up into the open left circle and beat Bobrovsky, who was off his angle thanks to some contact in front.
Gustav Nyquist found Weresnki moving in from the point again 3:56 later and he snapped in a wrister to send hats tumbling to the ice as the Columbus faithful got the New Year’s Eve celebration going early.
Boone Jenner notched the other Blue Jackets goal, putting his team up 2-1 late in the second with a power-play marker from Nyquist and Wennberg after the Cats had controlled much of the play in the period. Jenner would later add an assist on Werenski’s second of the night.
The Panthers, like the majority of the league, will get today’s holiday off to reset and enjoy the Winter Classic between Nashville and Dallas (NBC - 2 p.m.) before they return to action Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators. Thanks to Tampa Bay’s furious comeback win over Buffalo, the Cats are now in fourth place, one point behind the Lightning.
Yarn & Stitches
- Sergei Bobrovsky got a standing ovation from the sellout crowd during a first-period tribute and finished the game with 24 saves.
- Columbus snapped a two-game losing skid and extended its points streak to 11 games (7-0-4), the fourth-longest in franchise history.
- Nick Foligno drew an assist on Werenski’s final goal and dished out four hits. He also set the screen which “helped out” on Werenski’s second.
- Jonathan Huberdeau saw six-game point streak come to an end. The Panthers leading scorer amassed a whopping 16 points during the streak.
- The Blue Jackets are 12-0-1 in its past 13 home games against Florida. After trading 4-1 wins, the two teams will meet once more this season at Nationwide Arena in February.
- Elvis was definitely in the building last night, The Cannon has more.