After finally getting back in the win column against the Devils, the Blue Jackets continued their brief Metro division road trip with their first stop in the Wells Fargo center this season, looking to claw a little closer to the WC1 spot, and give a bit of breathing room.
The Flyers, sitting tied for second in the division, had things to say about that - particularly with newly acquired Petr Mrazek making his debut in net tonight.
The early going set the tone for much of the night: Slow, Defensive. The Flyers were trying to keep the Blue Jackets away from Mrazek at all costs - and the Jackets let them do it.
Worse, within the first few shifts Columbus was handing Philadelphia a power play - a pattern that would continue through the game over and over again.
Philly didn’t get much on their early power plays thanks to a combination of solid penalty killing and an excellent performance from Sergei Bobrovsky on several attempts from guys like Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, but as the period came to an end, both teams were still in the low single digits of shots on goal (Six for Philly, two for Columbus), and the entire affair felt listless on both sides.
The second period showed some signs of a heartbeat, particularly when the Jackets drew a power play, but the Flyers PK looked more dangerous than the Jackets power play yet again, and you could almost see Artemi Panarin thinking ‘I gave up the Olympics for this?’ as he skated back to the bench with steam rolling out of his ears.
Perhaps it was that frustration that drove him when, after serving a penalty for too many men on the ice, to do this:
Yes, that is Panarin picking off the D to D pass, blasting through the backcheckers like they were never there, and burying the dagger straight through Mrazek. An amazing, beautiful, goal of the year display that also happened to be Panarin’s 200th NHL point. Nice.
Panarin’s goal would hold up through the period, the energized Columbus bench putting more pressure on the Philadelphia crease and keeping the Flyers thoroughly pinned in their own zone for much of the remaining period.
Sadly, that performance didn’t last.
Claude Giroux would tie things back up early in the third on a shot that caromed in off a leg, and there was a sense of finality to it. This game wasn’t tied - it was over. The Blue Jackets didn’t offer a strong counterattack, and as they continued to hand power plays to the home team, it was only a matter of time before Philadelphia found the go ahead goal.
Brandon Dubinsky would go to the box after an exchange with Claude Giroux, and the Flyers would win the ensuing face off, setting up a shot from Shane Gostisbehere into traffic. Bob would make the initial save, but the rebound was right there for Nolan Patrick, who didn’t hesitate, collecting the power play goal.
Even as time ticked away and Sergei Bobrovsky went to the bench, the Blue Jackets mustered just four shots on goal in the third period, and none of them truly gave Mrazek much difficulty.
Final Score: Flyers 2 - Blue Jackets 1
It is worth saying that Panarin was not the only guy to show up tonight. Seth Jones had a solid night. Pierre-Luc Dubois made some mistakes, but he also made some great plays. Matt Calvert had some good chances on the penalty kill, including a great rush in the second period with Alexander Wennberg that put some real fear into Mrazek.
But it was still a game where the Jackets really needed a point, at least, and they’ve come away empty handed yet again.
And for as much credit is due to the Philly forecheck and defense...two periods of single digit shots on goal is not anything you want to see out of an NHL team in the playoff race.
Something’s gotta give.