Before heading out on a 6-game road trip, the Panthers took to the ice to face the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time this season and it came down to the wire once again on Saturday.
Jaromir Jagr opened the scoring with his 3rd goal of the season 16:45 into the 1st period on a feed from below the goal line from Aleksander Barkov. That goal carried the Panthers deep into the 3rd before Brandon Saad scored shortly after a faceoff win with a sharp, no-look backhander from the right circle that went top-shelf on Roberto Luongo, who made 36 saves on 37 shots in the victory.
“We [needed] those points based on where we are in the standings,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “It was a big two points to get tonight against a real good team over there. [Roberto Luongo] played real good, obviously.”
The Blue Jackets were looking to set a new franchise record for wins in the month of November, but Luongo stopped all three Columbus shooters in the shootout while Barkov was the only Panther to connect with a forehand-backhand move that fooled Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 22 of 23 shots faced on the night.
“It was a big win for us,” said Barkov. “If you get a chance to win the game for your team, you do everything for that.”
Columbus was unable to solve Luongo despite throwing the puck on net from all angles while the Panthers’ killed off both chances for the league-leading power play with ease.
The Panthers certainly didn’t play this game the way they probably would’ve liked. The power play wasn’t very effective on its two opportunities and they spent a lot of time in their own zone, which is where the 4th line of Seth Griffith, Derek MacKenzie, and Shawn Thornton got chewed up in shot attempts. MacKenzie was on the ice for 17 shot attempts against at 5-on-5 and only 2 attempts for, while Griffith and Thornton were both on for 11 against.
Luongo held the Panthers in the game more than Bobrovsky held the Blue Jackets in as he made several saves on grade-A scoring chances, although a majority of the Columbus opportunities were from the perimeter rather than in tight, something that’s become a theme over the past handful of games.
“We’re a confident group,” said Luongo. “When we get to overtime, that we can get the job done. Whether that’s a 3-on-3 or in the shootout, we’ve had some success over the last couple years. We carried the play in overtime. I thought we had a couple good chances that we didn’t’ bury, but we found a way to win it in the shootout.”
To kick off a 6-game road trip, the Panthers will play in the second game of the back-to-back on Sunday at 6pm against the Carolina Hurricanes, who are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Senators on Saturday. It’s their 2nd straight loss after 5 consecutive wins with 2 coming against the Canadiens and Capitals.