Alexandre Texier’s ridiculous one-handed goal in the fourth round of the shootout gave the host Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-2 decision over the Florida Panthers, handing the Cats its first loss of the 2020-21 season.
Texier’s beauty was the only conversion in the skills competition as Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 33 shots in regulation and overtime, denied Anthony Duclair, Jonathan Huberdeau, Frank Vatrano and Patric Hornqvist. One is left to wonder why Aleksander Barkov was one not of Florida’s shooters...
Chris Driedger, making his first start since opening night, once again provided his team with a quality start, finishing the game with 29 saves, including a dandy with the glove on Liam Foudy in the second period.
Mikko Koviu opened the scoring with 3:57 left in the first when he finished off a crossing pass from Eric Robinson, who plowed his way through Keith Yandle and went around the net to make the feed. Dean Kukan picked up the secondary assist on Koviu’s first goal with the Blue Jackets. Both players (Kukan and Koviu) had assists on Tuesday.
The Panthers tied things up at 17:14 of the second. Anthony Duclair came up with a steal in the Columbus end and sped towards the net, only to be stymied by Merzlikins. The rebound sat in front for Carter Verhaeghe, who calmly controlled the puck before lifting it into the back of the net.
Max Domi scored his first as a Blue Jacket 6:19 into the final frame with a screaming one-timer into the top corner. Domi beat Alexander Wennberg on an offensive faceoff and then dropped back a few strides to receive the set up pass from Zach Werenski.
Florida came with the equalizer at the 12:56 mark after Eetu Luostarinen and Brett Connolly forced a turnover along the side boards. The puck came to Vatrano, who dropped it back to Markus Nutivaara, who feed across to Anton Stralman. Merzlikins stopped Stralman’s high shot, but he couldn’t stop Luostarinen, who wisely headed to the net after the Cats took possession to stab the puck home.
The teams combined for just three shots on goal in overtime, necessitating a second straight shootout, where the Cats came up empty.
It’s always disappointing to drop a winnable game, but taking three out of four points against the gritty Blue Jackets, given the Panthers extensive history of losing at Nationwide Arena, is a positive. Now it’s on to Detroit for a weekend back-to-back against the last-place Red Wings.
Cuff & Buttons
- Carter Verhaeghe’s second period tally gave him four goals in four games. He is tied with fellow newcomer Patric Honqvist for the team lead. That is turning out to be quite the fee agent signing by Bill Zito.
- Speaking of Hornqvist, he led the Panthers with five shots on goal, matching Columbus’ Liam Foudy and Maxi Domi for the game-high.
- Markus Nutivaara made his Florida debut and picked up his first point (an assist) in the process. Nutivaara logged 12:29 TOI and blocked a shot.
- Native son Jack Roslovic made his Blue Jackets debut after the Winnipeg Jets traded him and Patrik Laine for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Roslovic played 14:14 with no shots on goal.
- Panthers forward Brett Connolly suited up for his 500th NHL game. Congrats on the milestone, Brett!
- For the brighter side of Florida’s first loss of the season load up The Cannon.