The Jackets returned home after their win over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday to take on the Florida Panthers. The Panthers, in town after a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, were looking to get Sergei Bobrovsky his second win over the Jackets this season.
In place of the injured Alexander Wennberg, Ryan MacInnis stepped into the lineup. Elvis Merzlikins got the start opposite Bobrovsky.
Here’s what happened.
The teams exchanged chances in the first five minutes, and both teams would feel they should have been on the scoreboard. First, Zach Werenski was unable to connect with a rebound left in the slot by Sergei Bobrovsky. Shortly after, Frank Vatrano sent a shot off the outside of the post to Elvis’ glove side.
At the 6:06 mark of the game, the Jackets’ early dominance was rewarded. Boone Jenner was able to get the puck in front of the net and was able to put his shot past Bobrovsky on a one time effort. The Panthers challenged the goal for goaltender interference, arguing that Cam Atkinson had poked the glove of the Panthers’ netminder. After a review by the officials, the goal was overturned. Onward.
After the early dominance, Florida grew into the game. The Panthers began to dominate possession including forcing a big save from Elvis Merzlikins after Markus Nutivaara turned the puck over in the defensive zone. With 10:23 remaining, Eric Robinson found the puck wide on a breakaway but was denied by Bobrovsky’s glove.
Through the midway part of the period, the teams continued to trade end to end chances with both sides looking for breakaway chances. The Panthers in particular were looking for long stretch passes, forcing the Jackets defense to play disciplined hockey.
With 2:15, Eric Robinson blocked a shot off his skate and looked to be in some difficulty, but remained on the bench. As the teams ended the first period, Columbus and Florida were tied at zero; Florida led in shots attempts 15-14.
The second period began just as the first ended: with both teams trading long passes up and down the ice, trying to get behind the opposing defense. With two minutes gone, there was a scramble to the side of Bobrovsky by the Panthers defense was able to keep the puck out of the net and clear the danger. A bouncing puck passed Bobrovsky but Riley Nash was unable to bat it into the net.
As the first five minutes passed, both teams continued to take shots and test the netminder, but each was equal to the task. Foligno found a bouncing puck from Zach Werenski with six minutes gone and took a shot, but the puck went off Bobrovsky’s glove and wide of the net. With 12:04 remaining in the second period, Sonny Milano was tripped as he skated in on Bobrovsky and the Jackets went to the power play for the first time on the night. The 24th ranked power play took aim at the 24th ranked kill and, despite quality chances from Boone Jenner and Gustav Nyquist and one timers from Milano and Emil Bemstrom, the Jackets were held off the scoresheet.
After the power play, the Jackets continued to dominate play. The Jackets were keeping the Panthers to the edges of the zone when on defense and were testing Bobrovsky from all angles; Bobrovsky still would not yield to the home team’s pressure.
With 2:11 remaining, Scott Harrington was sent to the box for four minutes as Harrington hit Sceviour in the face and drew blood. The Jackets were able to kill the first 2:11 of the Panthers’ power play and send the game to intermission. With 40 minutes played, the teams remained tied at zero; Columbus led Florida in shots 31-23.
The Jackets opened the third on the kill and were able to see out the rest of Harrington’s double minor, keeping the Panthers off the scoresheet while allowing just one shot on goal during the four minute kill and earning a standing ovation from the home crowd.
The Jackets continued to look to press their advantage after the penalty kill, looking to retake control of the run of play. As Sergei Bobrovsky was run over by his own defenseman, Jones had two glorious chances to put the puck in the back of the net but was unable to get it past the Panthers circling the net. With 6:19 gone in the third, Frank Vatrano got behind the Blue Jackets defense but Elvis Merzlikins got his glove up in time and was able to snuff out the danger. Stellar save for the Latvian.
With 12:16, Vladislav Gavrikov and Pierre-Luc Dubois led a rush up ice and Dubois was denied on the doorstep by Bobrovsky. It felt like the Jackets were beginning to get closer and closer to opening the scoring on the night. As they crossed the middle of the third period, the Jackets extended their shot lead to 11 as they continued to dominate the offensive zone time.
Seth Jones foiled a shot that would have beaten Bobrovsky but trickled just wide of the net as Bobrovsky was screened in front with seven minutes to go in regulation. Eric Robinson led a rush up the ice and forced a big kick save from Bobrovsky with 6:15 remaining. Columbus defensively earned the better of the chances through the first two-thirds of the third period. With gibe minutes to go, the Florida Panthers strung a solid shift together but Merzlikins and the defense were equal to the task. Sergei Bobrovsky saved a Vladislav Gavrikov slap shot with just over three minutes remaining as the teams went to the final TV timeout.
As the teams crossed two minutes to go they continued to trade chances, including a Matheson chance that Elvis got just enough of to turn aside. As the third period ended, the Jackets were able to get a shot on Bobrovsky, but Cam Atkinson was denied with 20 seconds to go. After 60 minutes, the teams went to overtime as they picked both picked up a point.
The teams continued trading chances. Vincent Trochek was denied on a stretch pass 45 seconds into the overtime period. Werenski forced a big save on Bobrovsky with 3:36 remaining in overtime. Zach Werenski, after picking up a Pierre-Luc Dubois rebound, buried the winner behind Bobrovsky.
Florida Panthers 0 Columbus Blue Jackets 1
Nine game point streak for the Blue Jackets, dating back to the January 11 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Pretty good.
Zach Werenski now has four goals in three career games against Sergei Bobrovsky. Pretty good, all things considered.
Werenski has now tied his own franchise record for goals by a defenseman in a single season with 16. It seems all but certain that Werenski will break that before this year is done. No time like Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, right?
Pierre-Luc Dubois is horrid in the faceoff circle. He was absolutely slaughtered last night, winning just 22% of his draws. The team as a whole won just 45%. That’s not good enough.
The Jackets were outhit by the Panthers too #fancystats
Elvis Merzlikins is the real deal, posting his fourth shutout on the season and improving on his numbers that were already better than Korpisalo’s in every stat except wins this season heading into the game last night. The front office has a decision to make this coming offseason, and the coaching staff must find a way to get Merzlikins regular work even when Korpisalo, the proclaimed number one, returns from injury. Elvis now has seven straight wins in net and has four shutouts in his last seven games.
Elvis, with his fourth shutout, tied Connor Hellebyuck for the NHL lead. In the words of Captain Raymond Holt:
Three games left on this homestand, starting on Friday with the Detroit Red Wings coming to town.