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Game #43 Recap: Panthers exert their will, dominate overmatched Blue Jackets

Here’s what happened.

Florida Panthers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

The Columbus Blue Jackets, fresh off their victory in Quebec over the Montreal Canadiens, returned to the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena to take on the Florida Panthers on the second night of their back to back.

The Panthers, one of the best teams in the NHL this season, had their sights set on two points to pad their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference, while the Blue Jackets were seeking a three game winning streak for the first time since Thanksgiving.

The Blue Jackets announced prior to the game that defenseman Jake Bean had a groin injury and would miss the next four weeks.

Elvis Merzlikins got the start in net and Gabriel Carlsson came in for the injured Bean.

Here’s what happened.

Scoring Recap

It took Florida just 32 seconds to get on the board. The Panthers keeps a clearing attempt in at the blue line and a cycle found Mason Marchment all alone between the faceoff dots. Marchment wasted no time, rifling a shot over Merzlikins’ shoulder and into the net. Absolutely awful start.

Florida goal (0-1): Marchment from Lundell, 0:32

The Panthers continued to dominate the opening run of play, cycling the puck around the Jackets zone on an extended shift. Sam Reinhart found himself all alone at the back post, the Panthers made an excellent goal mouth pass, and Reinhart pushed it into an empty net for his 13th of season. Bad became worse.

Florida goal (0-2): Reinhart from Lundell and Marchment, 3:23

Just under a minute later, Gavin Bayreuther let a backhand shot fly from the point. The puck made its way to Gustav Nyquist who tipped it past Sergei Bobrovsky to cut the deficit by one just 4:20 into the game. Three goals on five shots in less than five minutes - goaltending was optional early.

Columbus goal (1-2): Nyquist from Bayreuther, 4:20

The Blue Jackets earned a power play Makenzie Weegar was boxed for interfering with Cole Sillinger. The Blue Jackets had a shot go off the post, but Florida managed to kill a penalty, allowing one shot. The teams continued to trade end to end action through the middle part of the period, with Merzlikins and Bobrovsky both making outstanding stops to keep the game at 2-1.

At the 11:10 mark of the period, Andrew Peeke was boxed for tripping and Florida took advantage again. Aaron Ekblad made a diving effort to keep the puck in the zone and got the puck to Jonathan Huberdeau, who rang a shot off the post. The puck bounced right to Aleksander Barkov who rifled it into an open net.

Florida goal (1-3): Barkov from Huberdeau and Ekblad, 11:38

Just under six minutes to go, Max Domi went to the box for slashing. Anytime you can give the #2 team in the league in scoring a shooting gallery, you have to do it. The best scoring chance went to Gustav Nyquist on a tow on one, but Bobrovsky made a sliding stop to deny the opportunity.

With 2:06 to go, a tic tac toe play where Gavrikov, Boqvist, and Roslovic provided less than zero defensive support saw the Panthers extend their lead to 4-1, simply exerting their will on a far inferior team.

Florida goal (1-4): Reinhart from Marchment and Lundell, 17:54

Just before the end of the period, Patrik Laine cut the deficit back down to two as he scored with 7.1 seconds to go on the clock. Laine picked up a loose puck and, after some fancy stick handling, roofed one past Bobrovsky for his ninth of the season. Unreal period finished 4-2 for Florida, with shots tied 11-11.

Columbus goal (2-4): Laine from Voracek, 19:52

Less than five minutes into the second period, the Panthers managed to pick up right where they left off - on the scoresheet. Sam Reinhart was able to complete his hat trick in just 25 minutes of hockey, the fifth of his career.

Florida goal (2-5): Reinhart from Marchment and Lundell, 4:27

The Blue Jackets, again, answered quickly. Emil Bemstrom was able to capitalize on a rebound from Sergei Bobrovsky as Max Domi and several Florida players were able to obscure the crease enough for Bemstrom to score.

Columbus goal (3-5): Bemstrom from Roslovic and Domi, 5:34

The teams continued to trade chances through the middle part of the period, as the physicality began to escalate - several scrums broke out, including one with Sean Kuraly jawing with Radko Gudas. A scrum in front of Elvis with 10:14 to go led to 4 on 4 as Max Domi and Sam Bennett were boxed for roughing.

With 8:18 remaining, the Blue Jackets again clawed to within one goal. Patrik Laine scored his second of the night as he collected a loose puck and carried it past Sergei Bobrovsky and rang it off the post and in for his tenth of the season.

Columbus goal (4-5):

Boqvist was boxed for hooking with just over five minutes remaining. Cole Sillinger missed the net on a short handed chance and Huberdeau attempted to stuff a shot past Merzlikins in close, but neither team found the back of the net and the Jackets returned to full strength.

With 2:53 to go in the period, Elvis let in a truly bad goal as he was falling down in the crease. He was left all alone and Owen Tippett was able to tip it past Merzlikins.

Florida goal (4-6): Tippett from Verhaege and Bennett, 17:07

Seconds later, Florida caused a turnover in the defensive zone and buried it for the second in 15 seconds. Makenzie Weegar capitalized on an errant pass from Gabriel Carlsson and walked it past Merzlikins with ease.

Florida goal (4-7): Weegar from Marchment, 17:22

At the end of the second period, Florida led 7-4 on the scoreboard and 25-19 in shots.

Joonas Korpisalo replaced Elvis Merzlikins in net, but that change did nothing to stem the tide - 27 seconds into the period, Mason Marchment capitalized on a pass and beat Korpisalo for his second of the evening (and his sixth point). Marchment had 6-11-7 before this game on the season.

Florida goal (4-8): Marchment from Reinhart and Lundell, 0:27

Korpisalo made a big save on Marchment to deny him a hat trick just a few moments later. With 14:20 to go, Jakub Voracek rang a shot off the post as Columbus began to show a little bit of life in the offensive zone.

Florida called off the dogs in the final ten minutes, Columbus was unable to generate anything to get back into game, and the Panthers saw out the win and took the two points back to South Beach.

Final

Florida Panthers 8 Columbus Blue Jackets 4

Final Thoughts

This game was weird. 11 goals on 44 shots for a .750 save percentage through 40 minutes? A hat trick in roughly an hour of real time? At least Patrik Laine seems to be heating up? Just an all around strange event, if frustrating for the home fans (and probably Elvis Merzlikins). This was the definition of a “burn the tape” game, but there are increasingly far too many of these for a team that is looking for things to build on.

I recognize the Blue Jackets are not the most talented team in the league, and were playing one of the best in the league this season, but it would be really nice if they wouldn’t dig themselves early holes. Twice in the last three games, the team has allowed two goals before the first television timeout of the game. Coming out prepared enough to do literally anything but that would be really nice and prevent the team from having to dig out of holes repeatedly.

Eric Robinson was taken out on a low bridge hit by Radko Gudas early in the first period and left the bench to go to the locker room. He did not return. The hit was not necessary and was absolutely looking to injure - Gudas made no attempts on the puck, looking only to clean out Robinson. The play went unpenalized despite the dictionary definition of clipping. Hopefully the NHL gives Gudas a call, but I won’t hold my breath.

The NHL announced new COVID protocols:

Have a night, Sam Reinhart and friends.

That’s almost unbelievable.

The lack of consistency night to night is frustrating, but what is most frustrating right now is the lack of any sort of organization or cohesion in the defensive zone. Elvis would probably like a few goals back (he would say most if not all), but he was absolutely under siege before he was pulled, and Korpisalo faced the same pressure until the Panthers called the dogs off halfway through the third. ANY sort of support from the skaters to protect their netminders (and Florida’s talent is not an excuse - this has happened multiple times recently) would be appreciated. This is where coaching comes in - what are the guys out there supposed to be doing? What system is supposed to be in place? Surely this cannot be the plan, so what is the coaching staff doing to fix this? Whatever it is, it’s not working, and a new approach should be looked at.

Up Next

The All Star Break! Columbus plays again on Tuesday February 8, at the Washington Capitals at 7 PM EDT.