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Recap: The Columbus Blue Jackets Cage the Florida Panthers

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A slow start was overcome by an offensive onslaught.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Florida Panthers Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the Columbus Blue Jackets traveled south to take on the Florida Panthers in the first of a three-game road trip. The Panthers had been disappointing to open the season, struggling despite their youth to a 4-6-1 record. The Panthers have struggled to do anything remotely resembling stopping the puck, including giving up 8 goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In roster news, Cam Atkinson missed the game as he recovered from his hip injury and an illness. Tyler Motte stayed in the lineup in Atkinson’s spot. Sonny Milano returned to the lineup after being healthy scratched on Monday night allowing the team to ice a full fourth line. Pierre-Luc Dubois got his first action of the year at center as he opened on the fourth line between Sonny Milano and Markus Hannikainen. Sergei Bobrovsky got the start in net.

First Period Recap

The game opened with a sloppy first few minutes. Several sloppy turnovers in the neutral and defensive zones contributed to a sustained period of offensive pressure from the Panthers, but the home team was unable to capitalize on several open looks at Bobrovsky’s net. Too few players were allowed completely unimpeded looks at the net, absolutely inexcusable on the part of the Blue Jackets early. After yet another rush into the Columbus zone, Florida was able to capitalize early on the lethargic start by the road team. Mark Pysyk received a one time pass right in front of the net and one-timed it past Bobrovsky for a 1-0 lead. There was a lot that went wrong on the play, and Alexander Wennberg was right in the middle of it.

GOAL FLORIDA: Pysyk from Trocheck and McGinn, 4:57

Florida continued to put the pressure on the Columbus goal as the Jackets, as my mom texted me, were “just skating aimlessly.” Early on, the Dubinsky-Jenner-Motte line provided what little offense the team could muster. Jonathan Huberdeau went off the ice at 8:25 for delay of game as the Blue Jackets earned the night’s first power play. Typically, it came to nothing as the team’s league-worst power play continued to sink to the depths of the ocean or somehow into the mantle of the earth.

Somehow, the CBJ were able to get back into the game despite the struggles of the team. Josh Anderson took a cross-crease pass and roofed it into the net to tie the game at one. It was a slick feed from Dubinsky, just evading the stick of Florida’s James Reimer.

GOAL COLUMBUS: Anderson from Dubinsky and Dubois, 11:32

Nick Foligno sure looked a hot mess in the first period. He was run down on backchecks, skated around aimlessly, and largely had the worst period he’s had this season. As the big-name players for the Jackets continued to make mistakes all over the ice, Josh Anderson appeared to will the team to a win. He took a feed from Markus Nutivaara and buried his second of the night behind James Reimer.

GOAL COLUMBUS: Anderson from Nutivaara and Jenner, 16:27

Columbus ended the first period on the front foot thanks to some strong shifts from the fourth line and the Dubinsky line. Both kept possession very well in the Florida zone. 2-1 after 20 minutes.

Second Period Recap

Florida opened on the forecheck and were immediately rewarded. After a failed clearing attempt from Zach Werenski, a long shot from the point beat Sergei Bobrovsky to knot the game at two.

GOAL FLORIDA: McCoshen from Vrbata and Trocheck (2), 0:35

The first sustained pressure from Columbus came on a rush from Foligno, Panarin, and Anderson as Foligno threw a shot on net and Anderson went over and through the crossbar. Shortly after, the Jackets got on the board again as Markus Hannikainen reclaimed the lead for the visitors.

GOAL COLUMBUS: Hannikainen from Savard and Calvert, 5:21

Shortly after retaking the lead, the anemic power play for the Blue Jackets returned to the ice. McCoshen was the offending Panther, but it didn’t matter. The abysmal “throw the puck around uselessly” system failed to generate any sort of pressure before yielding a shorthanded marker. An ugly turnover led to the most abysmal goal I’ve ever seen Sergei Bobrovsky allow. It slid under his pad and one inch across the goal line, but it counted.

SHORTHANDED GOAL FLORIDA: Trocheck, unassisted, 8:43

Hey, a power-play goal. Who knew those were allowed. Oliver Bjorkstrand basically just slapped one home to restore the lead, which was much needed. It was a nasty shot from the right circle.

COLUMBUS GOAL: Bjorkstrand from Jones and Milano, 9:11

After the 4th Jackets goal, the Panthers changed goaltenders. Antti Niemi recently claimed off of waivers, replaced James Reimer. Reimer was displeased, slamming the bench door behind him. Shortly after entering the game, however, Niemi would allow his first. After an excellent job keeping the puck in the offensive zone, Bjorkstrand notched his second in 4 minutes.

COLUMBUS GOAL: Bjorkstrand from Werenski and Calvert, 11:27

This has been a strange game, featuring basically no rhythm or sense from either side of this equation. A strong rush from Foligno up ice saw his pass looking for Artemi Panarin broken up and cleared. The captain should have done better on what was effectively a 4 on 1. Just after, the Panthers were able to sustain some offensive zone pressure but the captain cleared the danger in a nice bounce back after his awful first period.

The botched rush, however, seemed to give Florida life as the Panthers spent shift after shift cycling in the offensive zone. Timely work from Jenner and Anderson seemed to be the only thing keeping Florida from another equalizer. A nice shift in the offensive zone, led by Jones and Werenski, helped to right the ship as those two again demonstrated why they are one of the best pairings in the league.

Despite a scuffle to end the period that saw Brandon Dubinsky and Keith Yandle go off for roughing, Dubinsky was assessed the extra two minute minor for cross-checking and the Jackets ended the period on the penalty kill. Either way, the period ended with the CBJ owning a 5-3 lead.

Third Period Recap

The third period opened with the Blue Jackets killing off the remainder of the Dubinsky cross-checking penalty to little fanfare. The period opened with a lot of end to end action but very few attempts on either net. Alexander Wennberg saw a shot turned aside by Niemi, but it was a relatively weak effort. Moments later, Boone Jenner split the defense carrying the puck which caused all sorts of havoc, allowing Tyler Motte to bury a loose puck behind Niemi.

GOAL COLUMBUS: Motte from Jenner, 3:45

Of note at this point, Brandon Dubinsky was still missing from the Blue Jackets bench. We can only hope it’s not for anything serious. That makes it Dubinsky and Calvert hurt tonight (Calvert in a tussle with Anderson stick that bloodied his mouth).

Artemi Panarin was taken down in a scrum at 5:14 that saw a Keith Yandle go to the box for roughing. Kudos to Nick Foligno and Josh Anderson who both flew in to protect Panarin as the game got chippy. Yandle should have been tossed for that reckless attack against Panarin. On the ensuing power play, the Blue Jackets managed to capitalize as the Bread Man himself was finally able to notch his second of the season from the right circle. or, he almost did. Jenner tipped the shot, just barely, but it went down as Jenner’s goal.

GOAL COLUMBUS: Jenner from Panarin and Werenski, 6:12

Florida started playing exceptionally chippy hockey as the game got out of hand. A scrum by the benches saw an extremely displeased PLD chirp the Florida bench for 30 solid seconds. The end result was a 4 on 4 that neither team scored on despite a great chance from Anderson.

Some end to end action with little to no action around the net dominated the middle part of the period. Bobrovsky made a nice right pad save to keep the score 7-3. but that as about it as the teams headed past the final TV timeout.

With little fanfare in the final minutes, the Blue Jackets closed out the win.

FINAL: Columbus Blue Jackets 7 Florida Panthers 3

Three Stars

Third: Zach Werenski
Second: Oliver Bjorkstrand
First: Josh Anderson

Final Thoughts

Fire Larsen. It’s time. The power play needs a systemic overhaul. A power play is supposed to give the team an offensive boost, not suck the literal life out of a team like it is doing to Columbus. Something has to change and soon. The team has scored 4 power play goals and given up 2 shorthanded. That’s despicable, awful, and deserves ridicule. NOTE: I WROTE THIS BEFORE BOONE TIPPED PANARIN’S GOAL IN. One game does not reverse a trend and I still believe that systemic changes need to be made to fix the power play going forward. We don’t face the Florida penalty kill every night, nor the abysmal Florida keepers.

The team carried Sergei Bobrovsky on an off night for the netminder. A win on paper turned into a win on the ice. Can’t ask for much more from a game the team should win.

PLD looked solid and engaged all night. That was great to see.

Hope Dubinsky gets well soon.

COME ON HOCKEY GODS GIVE BREAD MAN GOALS

Bjorkstrand and Anderson were the standouts. Great job.

9-4-0. 18 points.

UP NEXT

The Jackets hit the ice against the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night in Tampa. Faceoff is set for 7:00 EST.

Go Jackets!