Panthers down league-leading Blue Jackets in 4-3 win

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

For whatever reason, the Panthers have enjoyed facing the Columbus Blue Jackets as of late. 

Dating back to 2015, the two teams have met 6 times with Florida going 5-0-1, including Saturday night’s 4-3 victory at the BB&T Center to extend their home winning streak against to Columbus to 4 games. Not only that, but they earned just their second win in their past 8 games in Sunrise.

The Panthers have now won 5 of their last 8 games, 4 of their last 6, and 3 of their last 4 as they look to make a mid-season push with several key players out of the lineup due to injury.

They were the last team to defeat the Blue Jackets on November 26th in a shootout before Columbus when on to put together a franchise-record 16-game winning streak which spanned 3 different months, although they’ve won just twice since January 3rd.

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

It was only fitting that 4th-liner Shawn Thornton opened the scoring 8:22 into the 1st period against the league’s best team. His 1st goal of the season and 100th point of his NHL career came off a perfect backdoor pass from Aaron Ekblad which was deposited into a wide open net.

“I’m not that impressed with getting 100 points,” said Thornton of his milestone. “It’s not that impressive when it takes [674] games. You guys talk about it more than me. I could care less. I’m glad we won.”

The Blue Jackets got the next two goals to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission with Scott Hartnell connecting by way of a number 1-ranked power play and Cam Atkinson taking advantage of a failed zone clear by Jakub Kindl.

Vincent Trocheck, who was named to the 2017 All-Star Game on Tuesday, scored from an impossible angle at 8:24 of the 2nd period for the first of 3 goals by the Panthers. Jonathan Marchessault added his 13th marker of the season less than 3 minutes later, while Jaromir Jagr crashed the net and tapped the puck over the line to make the score 4-2 early in the 3rd.

The 23-year old Trocheck leads the Panthers with 14 goals and is tied for the 2nd-most points in the NHL dating back to December 24th with 13 in 10 games. He’s been the Panthers’ main source of offensive and energy with top center Aleksander Barkov out of the lineup.

“It was a smart decision of management to sign him long term,” said Jagr of Trocheck. “I really like him. He gives it everything he’s got. He works very hard. Small size, but big heart.”

Boone Jenner got the Blue Jackets’ 3rd and final goal of the game on a simple, unscreened wrist shot from the slot that somehow found its way past James Reimer who made 30 saves on the night.

Joonas Korpisalo made 28 saves on 32 shots in place of an ill Sergei Bobrovsky while the Panthers improved to 14-0-4 this season when scoring 3 or more goals in regulation.

Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography
Image courtesy of @turbuL3NT2 / COTP Photography

It’s been a tough ride defensively and offensively for the Panthers this season but things have started to come together slowly but surely under head coach Tom Rowe, who’s now 9-7-7 since taking over for Gerard Gallant in late-November. Consistency has been an issue, but the Panthers managed to hold down the fort in the second game of a back-to-back – and get scoring to boot – against the NHL’s best team before heading on the road where they’ve won 4 straight.

“We played a good game against the best team in the league right now,” said Rowe. “They’ve been playing unbelievable. They’re a big, strong physical team and every shift they’re coming at you. I thought it was real good that our guys stuck in there and hung in there. They did a great job.”

The Panthers will meet the Calgary Flames on Tuesday for the first of a 4-game road trip. The Flames dropped their last 2 games – including 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday against the Oilers – after winning 4 of 6 before that. This will be the first game between the two teams in just over a year since Calgary shutout the Panthers 6-0 on January 13th of 2016.

Post-game notes: F Seth Griffith was a healthy scratch against the Blue Jackets after his first game back on Friday while F Denis Malgin drew back in on the 4th line. … F Jared McCann took Griffith’s spot on the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Vincent Trocheck. … G James Reimer earned his 3rd win in his last 4 starts with Roberto Luongo taking the 2nd game of the back-to-back set off. … F Greg McKegg did not play on Saturday but is expected to be ready to return when the team plays Calgary on Tuesday. He has missed 4 games since suffering an upper-body injury on January 7th against the Bruins. … The Panthers are one of just 3 teams to defeat the Blue Jackets more than once this season. The 2 other teams are the Bruins and Sharks.
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