Carter Verhaeghe and rookie Anton Lundell each scored twice and MacKenzie Weegar matched the franchise record for points by a defenseman with a shorthanded goal and three assists in the Florida Panthers 9-2 dismantling of the Columbus Blue Jackets at FLA Live Arena.
The Panthers easily swept its three-game homestand, outscoring the Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars and Blue Jackets by a combined 21-5. The en fuego Gatos are 8-0-1 since returning from the holiday break.
Florida’s second line of Anthony Duclair, Jonathan Huberdeau and Sam Bennett each collected a goal and an assist during the rout. Duclair’s power-play one-timer came at the 2:07 mark, just 1:21 after Verhaeghe scooped the puck into an open net to open the scoring on a scrambley play 46 seconds into the game.
Fourth line sparkplug Ryan Lomberg also produced a goal and a helper. Aaron Ekblad racked up three assists, Sam Reinhart had two, and Aleksander Barkov, Eetu Luostarinen and Patric Hornqvist each had one.
After beating Dallas on Friday, Sergei Bobrovsky got the call against Columbus and stopped 28 of 30 to pick up his 19th win. Bobrovsky is a sterling 15-1 at home this season.
Gustav Nyquist got a rebound to go for a power-play goal early in third period to make it 6-1 and Boone Jenner completed the scoring with his 15th goal.
Starter Elvis Merzlikins left the building (well, the ice) 13:28 into the first after giving up four goals on 15 shots. Joonas Korpisalo mopped up and turned away 31 of the 36 shots he faced.
The Panthers improved to a gaudy 21-3-0 at home, and have won seven straight games in Sunrise. Over the streak, the Cats have scored at least five goals six times and have outscored their opponents by a 45-15 margin. What I liked most about the win was, up five, the Panthers three-goal response to Nyquist ending Bobrovsky’s shutout bid. Florida, who is only 5-4-5 away from home, will open a five-game road trip on Tuesday in Calgary and play seven of their next nine games away from the friendly confines of FLA Live Arena.
Cuffs & Buttons
- MacKenzie Weegar became the second defenseman in franchise history to record multiple four-point games, joining Bryan McCabe. Weegar’s shorty, the first of his career, and marked his 100th NHL point. He became the 11th defenseman in franchise history to surpass the 100-point barrier. The shorthanded goal was Florida’s sixth of the season, currently tied for the most among NHL teams. Weegar is the tenth Panthers defender to score a shorthanded goal.
- With yet another mulit-point performance Jonathan Huberdeau extended the NHL’s longest active point streak to eight games. Huberdeau has scored five goals and 20 points during the torrid span.
- Blue Jackets players with assists were Max Domi, Jake Bean, Gustav Nyquist and Andrew Peeke.
- Anton Lundell scored two goals for the second time this season and recorded a career-high eight shots on goal. Lundell has produced at least one point in seven straight home games, the second-longest such run in franchise history. Aleksander Barkov holds the record with 8 games from December 10, 2013 to January 14, 2014).
- Aaron Ekblad matched his career high with three assists, a feat he has accomplished three times this season. Ekblad is up to 35 points in 37 games, the second-highest total on the team.
- For more on Florida’s seventh straight win over Columbus, fire The Cannon.