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Recap: Panthers can’t solve Merzlikins, lose 1-0 in OT to Blue Jackets

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Columbus goalie posts fourth shutout as Cats fail to generate much offense

NHL: FEB 04 Panthers at Blue Jackets Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Florida Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky would put on perhaps his best goaltending display this season as the Cats faced off against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Unfortunately for him, the Panthers couldn’t put one past his now replacement.

Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins earned his fourth shutout of the season as the Blue Jackets topped the Panthers 1-0 in overtime. Panther killer Zach Werenski scored the overtime winner with his 16th of the season as he continues to lead all NHL defenseman in goals scored.

Thanks to a monster effort in goal by Bobrovsky, who finished the game with 44 saves, the Cats managed to earn a point with an overtime loss in the second game of yet another back-to-back pair. The Panthers were pretty stout defensively in front of Bobrovsky, but he made quite a number of spectacular saves throughout the game to ensure the weary Cats would at least survive regulation.

At times the Panthers wilted under the incessant waves of forecheckers that Columbus kept throwing at them, struggling to clear the zone until someone was able to flip the puck out high in the air. The Jackets did a great job of controlling the puck for most of the game, preventing the Panthers’ prolific offense from getting much of anything going. The teams would trade chances throughout, with the Blue Jackets having the greater quality and quantity, but neither team could crack the score sheet until the very end.

Florida was fresh off an emotional win over the Toronto Maple Leafs the night before, and despite the schedule and the travel, the team managed to put forth a pretty workman-like effort against Columbus, and although they did not get the result they wanted, the team worked hard throughout and kept themselves in it long enough to have a shot to win in the end.

The Cats will have a chance to rest a bit and get a little home cooking as they head back to Sunrise and await the Gallant-less Vegas Golden Knights, who have been struggling as of late and hold a very tenuous grasp on third place in the Pacific Division. The Panthers may regain the services of Aleksander Barkov, but we’ll wait and see if his knee is good enough to get back out there come Thursday night.

Until then, get your fill of various jackets of blue and hopefully some solid Tortorella memes at The Cannon. As always, join us Thursday night for another hot and heavy GameThread.

Observations

  • For as good as Jonathan Huberdeau is (and he’s really good) it’s easy to see how much Barkov’s play impacts those around him. In Barkov’s absence, Huberdeau’s really struggled to generate much offense, and the same goes for Evgenii Dadonov. Denis Malgin isn’t really able to fill Barkov’s shoes either, so let’s hope Barkov is healing quickly because that top line needs him back. He’s just that special of a player and you don’t realize it as much until he’s gone.
  • The fourth line was superb against the Blue Jackets, spending time in the offensive zone all game and generating multiple chances off the rush. They were pretty solid defensively too, not allowing much despite having quite a few defensive zone starts. Jayce Hawryluk in particular had a pretty solid game by throwing the body often, separating the Columbus defenders from the puck.
  • Merlikins took over the Columbus net at the start of the new year, and has been lights out, winning 10 of his last 12 starts to the tune of a .925 save percentage this season. He looks extremely confident and poised in net and is perhaps the biggest reason the Blue Jackets been so successful as of late. They are definitely not missing Bobrovsky anymore.
  • Brett Connolly has been mostly invisible for the Panthers for quite some time, and it’s not a good sign for the depth scoring as Noel Acciari is, as expected, cooling off from his torrid goal-scoring pace. Since the new year, Connolly has only one goal and four points, and is a -2 and is not generating much offensively. The Panthers could really use his even-strength prowess as the march towards the postseason continues.
  • Bobrovsky played brilliantly against the Maple Leafs on Monday, and looked superb against the Blue Jackets in this one. Is he finally rounding into form? The Cats certainly hope so, as a second half surge from Bob would give this team the kind of boost it needs to let the offense truly shut the door in most games.