After last night’s loss to the Florida Panthers, the Columbus’s Blue Jackets wrapped up their season series. The Jackets had not shown well against the Panthers this year, with the Panthers sporting a 6-0-1 record against the union blue this year.
The Blue Jackets made two changes to the lineup for the finale:
Two other changes for #CBJ vs. #FlaPanthers:— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) April 20, 2021
G Joonas Korpisalo will start, even though Elvis Merzlikins was mostly very good on Monday.
And D Dean Kukan replaces Andrew Peeke on the ever-changing blue line.
Max Domi remained a healthy scratch for the second night in a row.
The Blue Jackets, losers of six straight, were looking to get back to winning ways. Here’s what happened.
Spencer Knight made his career debut tonight and the stats for previous goaltenders to do so were not promising for Columbus.
This is incredible.#FlaPanthers Spencer Knight becomes the 11th goaltender to make his first #NHL start vs. #CBJ.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) April 20, 2021
The previous 10 are 9-1-0 with a .924 save percentage and 2.30 goals-against average in their debuts.
The Blue Jackets looked to test Knight early, but they were unable to get shots through as Florida maintained the bulk of the early offensive zone time. Through five minutes, the Panthers maintained a three to two shots on goal edge. With 13:08 remaining, Aleksander Barkov took advantage of a transition defense and threw a wrist shot through Korpisalo to break the ice.
Florida goal (0-1): Barkov from Gusev and Marchment, 6:52
Fourteen seconds later, a Patrik Laine turnover led to a chance for Florida. The initial shot was stopped, but a juicy rebound and a flailing Korpisalo led to a rebound goal by Sam Bennett.
Florida goal (0-2): Bennett from Duclair and Huberdeau, 7:06
So that was a horrid sequence from all involved.
Columbus responded, but there was no real danger. With 14 minutes to go, the Jackets only had four shots on net and had rarely even threatened Knight. Against a guy making his first NHL start. That’s not how you pressure a guy in his debut, in case anyone was wondering.
On a rush, Patrik Laine got a shot through on a feed from Alexandre Texier, but Knight was equal to the shot. Knight made his first big NHL save. With 15:55 gone, the Jackets earned the first power play as Anthony Duclair went to the box for hooking. Seconds into the power play, the Jackets cycled the puck around the zone effectively and a rebound fell kindly to Roslovic who beat Knight in front.
Columbus goal (1-2): Roslovic from Atkinson and Bjorkstrand, 16:16
On a response shift from Florida, Gavrikov was boxed for elbowing Marchment with 3:11 to go. With 1:40 remaining, Korpisalo made a huge save on a shot as Alex Wennberg fanned on it. With just under a minute remaining, a Columbus rush up the ice led to a tying goal. Laine grabbed the pick off the bench and led a rush up the ice and Roslovic beat Knight with a shot for his second of the period. The Panthers challenged for offside and were successful, negating the goal.
Columbus ended the period trailing 2-1 on the scoreboard but leading 11-9 in shots.
Florida caught Columbus on a line change early, but the puck rolled on Sam Bennett and Korpisalo was able to deny it. Florida opened the period on the front foot, looking to extend their lead, but the Jackets were equal to the challenge early. After an icing, the Jackets saw a chance to get the equalizer but Knight was equal to the shot through traffic. The teams began to trade chances as the game opened up, but the Jackets remained down one at the first TV timeout of the period.
On a rush up the ice with 12:56 remaining, Florida saw a shot saved by Korpisalo but a juicy rebound out in front that Sam Bennett was able to bury past the sprawling netminder.
Florida goal (1-3): Bennett from Huberdeau and Duclair, 7:04
On the ensuing faceoff, Kole Sherwood fought Ryan Lomberg, to spark the team I guess. Both went to the box for fighting. Through the middle part of the period, nothing really happened as the teams traded possession but no real chances. Josh Dunne had a chance at a rebound with 8:45 to go and jammed at it, but Knight was equal to it.
With 4:18 left in the period, the Panthers were able to capitalize on a puck thrown up the ice. The puck bounced off of Josh Dunne’s glove to Frank Vatrano, who threw the puck at the net and Lomberg, fresh off fighting Sherwood, deflected it out of the air and into the net.
Florida goal (1-4): Lemberg from Vatrano and Nutivaara, 15:42
A clinical play with 3:22 remaining saw the lead grow to 5-2.
Florida goal (1-5): Huberdeau from Duclair and Gudas, 16:38
Not much to say about this one. One team showed up, and it wasn’t Columbus. The skaters didn’t play well, Korpisalo was poor. Just a mess all around.
To start the third, Korpisalo stayed in the net - he was not pulled despite allowing five goals, the coaching staff electing to ride him through this one to try to build confidence. The first six minutes passed with several chances by both teams, but nothing truly dangerous as both teams looked to be seeing this one out.
With 12:10 to go, Stefan Matteau went to the box for holding Alex Wennberg, giving the Panthers a power play chance. The Jackets didn’t allow a goal, somehow, but Florida had several chances, including ones from Sam Bennett and Brendan Montour. The Panthers didn’t even ice Barkov’s power play unit, electing to protect those players, knowing Columbus couldn’t do enough offensively to get back into the game.
Korpisalo saved a Sam Bennett shot late, denying a hat trick. His best save of the night.
Columbus Blue Jackets 1 Florida Panthers 5
Stick taps to Spencer Knight, who did enough in his first start to get the win.
Stick taps to Duclair, unceremoniously traded along with two second round picks to the Senators, for demolishing Columbus this season. Turns out he can, in fact, play hockey.
The penalty kill is 39 of its last 43. Positives.
EXTRA FINAL THOUGHT
Look, this is a team playing out the string - they’re gonna miss the playoffs, likely earn a high draft pick, and hopefully add some NHL talent to a roster sorely lacking in it. That being said - you’d like to see the team fight through SOME adversity down the stretch. You can take umbrage with Max Domi’s two misconducts, but at least he was still engaged in the games. I’m no fan of dirty play, and actively want fighting banned from the league, but what from any player on the roster tonight showed they even cared about the game after the first period? I’d rather see Domi double shift every game down the stretch than anything we saw from half the roster tonight.
Look at a team like the Sabres - they lost 18 games in a row at one point, and fired their coach. Guess what? They have a better goal differential than Columbus does now. That team has shown fight and heart and competitive spirit that the Blue Jackets have left for dead on the roadside. If they’re going to lose, at least look like you care. This team doesn’t.
I don’t mind losing - I mind the lack of give a crap and effort. Leadership - Jones and Cam in particular - has done nothing of late. Attitude reflects leadership.
The Blue Jackets head across the Sunshine State to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning on Thursday night. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:00 EST. RIP Columbus.