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Vatrano nets two in Panthers 4-2 win over Blue Jackets

Cats gain a share of first place in the Central

Columbus Blue Jackets v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Frank Vatrano opened and completed the scoring in the Florida Panthers 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center.

Vatrano found himself in the right spot to put away a puck that came off the skate of Seth Jones and out in front at the 11:40 mark of the first period after the Panthers applied heavy pressure behind the Blue Jackets net.

Sam Bennett notched his first as Panther 59 seconds into the middle frame, finishing off a 3-on-2 with a low, hard wrister that saw his new linemates, Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair pick up the helpers on the well-executed rush.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, who was surrounded by all five Cats, got Columbus on the board at the 13:22 mark, firing a shot against the grain off the post and by Sergei Bobrovsky, who didn’t seem to see the puck until it was behind him.

Radko Gudas restored Florida’s lead just 41 ticks later when he took a pass from Duclair, who carried the puck down the left wing and rounded the net, and drove a shot past an unset Elvis Merzlikins. The second assist on Gudas’ eventual game-winner went to Gustav Forsling.

The Blue Jackets pulled within one 8:01 into the third thanks to Zac Dalpe, who kept whacking away at loose puck and finally got it to go on the third try. Keith Yandle was in the right place, but failed to take the puck, the stick, or the body of Dalpe.

Bobrovsky, who finished with 34 saves, closed the door the rest of the way and Vatrano iced it with Merzlikins off for an extra attacker from former Blue Jacket Alex Wennberg and Patric Hornqvist with 1:22 left in regulation.

The Panthers took care of business against fading Columbus and have earned at least a point in each of their past four games (3-0-1) after a three-game losing streak. Florida is now 6-0-1 against the Blue Jackets this season going into tonight’s series finale. The Cats out-shot Columbus 39-36, won 37/59 faceoffs and killed off both Blue Jackets power plays. Thanks to Tampa Bay’s overtime win over Carolina, the Panthers are now tied with the Hurricanes at 63 points, but the Bunch of Jerks have two games in hand, leaving the Cats in second place, one point ahead of the Lightning. What a race!

Yarn & Stitches

  • Sam Bennett has picked up three points in his first two games with his new club, and he has recorded a point in each of his last six games played. Bennett also registered his first fighting major as a Panther against Columbus defenseman Gavin Bayreuther.
  • Frank Vatrano produced his first multi-goal game of the season. The Tank has scored four goals over his past four games.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau posted his team-leading 31st assist of the season, extending his point streak to four games. Huberdeau leads the Cats in scoring with 46 points.
  • Anthony Duclair has registered three goals and seven points over his past six games played.
  • Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, Eric Robinson and Andrew Peeke collected assists for the Blue Jackets. Elvis Merzlikins stopped 35 of 38 shots faced.
  • Aleksander Barkov recorded five takeaways, the most by any Panthers player in a game this season.
  • Radko Gudas and Brandon Montour led the Cats with four hits each. Gudas has registered three points (2G/1A) over his past four games.
  • Spencer Knight got a nice birthday present from the team, who dressed him as the backup for last night’s game.
  • For more on the penultimate game between Florida and Columbus, fire off The Cannon.

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