This game could really be recapped in one sentence: They weren't ready.
For whatever reason, be it the emotional letdown of the last minute loss in Montreal, the healthy scratch of Scott Hartnell, or the phase of the moon, barely anyone on the Blue Jackets seemed to be awake for most of this game.
Sergei Bobrovsky came to play, stopping 31 of 32 shots between regulation and OT, but the support he received could be best described as "minimal."
I will give some credit to the Panthers - their game plan clearly involved forcing the puck carriers to the outside, blocking shots, and clogging the middle of the ice, and they did a great job of it. Between that defensive strategy and an early flurry of shots that saw the Jackets outshot 8-0 in the first 10 minutes of the first period, it's a minor miracle they weren't losing this game by two or three goals at any point.
Instead, Bob kept them in the game until the Panthers began handing them chances to score - including back to back power plays after high sticks from Vincent Trochek on Brandon Dubinsky, and Jaromir Jagr on Matt Calvert - but the Blue Jackets couldn't find the goal.
Though they'd make it through the first period unscathed (save for a late tripping call on Ryan Murray), it was clear the team had been lucky, not good, in that regard.
When the second period opened with the Jackets on the PK, we saw some good work, particularly by Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson, but a gaffe just after the power play expired made it all for naught.
With Sergei Bobrovsky hugging the side of the net to face the shooter, Justin Falk planted himself in the crease on one knee - I would assume in hopes of blocking the shot if Vinnie Trochek had tried a cross ice feed to one of his linemates - but instead Falk made himself the perfect vehicle for a bank shot off of his extended leg and into the open side of the net, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
(It may be coincidence, or just some of the injured vets getting healthy, but Falk would find himself assigned to Lake Erie almost immediately after the game. Whoops.)
It would take almost 10 minutes for the Jackets to respond, and it was a fourth line rush that tied things up (with a little puck luck) - Kerby Rychel lead the breakout, taking a shot that went off Al Montoya and into the corner, where Gregory Campbell dug it out and fed Andrew Bodnarchuk at the boards.
Bodnarchuk put his pass right where Michael Chaput needed it for a redirect, and the puck bounced off his stick, over Montoya's shoulder, off the crossbar and in to knot things up at 1.
Despite the Panthers handing the Jackets another set of penalties late in the third (which included about 10 seconds of 5-on-3 advantage), the power play continued to fizzle, and the tie would demand extra time to determine a winner.
OT was more of the same near misses and frustrating lack of cohesion, culminating in Columbus taking a too many men penalty, served by Ryan Johansen.
The PK was once again solid - which is even more impressive given the circumstances - but it didn't provide enough of a lift to tilt things in the Jackets' favor before time ran out, so we were off to a shootout.
In the first round, Ryan Johansen and Brandon Pirri both failed to score (it seems Al Montoya was anticipating Johan's "slow dagger" move), but Cam Atkinson made a nice last minute deke to fake Montoya out, tucking into a wide open net to score, while Bob stacked the pads for a great leg save against Trochek, giving Alexander Wennberg a chance to end it.
The young Swede tried a couple of moves on his way to the net, then bobbled the puck, losing control of it before he could take a shot, leaving the door open for Florida.
Huberdeau went wide right, then cut left before roofing his shot home, tying the shootout back up, and it was on to extras.
Boone Jenner tried a move similar to Atkinson's, only to shoot wide left of the net, while Alexander Barkov went in with a frontal assault, forcing Bobrovsky back into his net before rifling his shot home to give the Panthers the win.
Final Score: Panthers 2 - Jackets 1 (SO)
There's not much to say about this one - the Jackets were nothing like the team who gave Montreal all they could handle, and accusations of them taking the game lightly from Torts seemed right on the mark.
As mentioned earlier, Justin Falk was assigned to the Monsters after the game, as was Kerby Rychel. You'd assume Hartnell will be back for Saturday's game in Philly - no word yet on who is being activated on the defense.
This game wasn't just disappointing - at times it was actually boring. I cannot think of a greater sin for a sporting event.
The Jackets take on Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center tonight. Let's hope they remember where it is after their pre-game naps.