It hasn’t been an easy start to the season for the Panthers. And they certainly haven’t made it easy on themselves.
A season-high eight goals allowed on Monday prompted a players-only post-game meeting, and Wednesday’s practice focused entirely on defense.
Despite all of that, Thursday night appeared to more of the same.
A solid start gave way to a 7-3 blowout at the hands of the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center, and for the second straight game, the Panthers were left picking up the pieces and searching for even more answers.
And just as he did on Monday, James Reimer left the net in favor of Antti Niemi after allowing 4 goals on 19 shots through just under half a game of action.
Vincent Trocheck’s second three-point effort in his last four outings went to waste as the Panthers allowed three second-period goals for the fifth time in the last seven games en route to their seventh loss in their last nine.
It was the first time the Panthers lost at home to the Blue Jackets since December 4th, 2014.
It was the second time in franchise history the Blue Jackets have scored seven goals in the Panthers’ barn.
Trocheck sped through the neutral zone and toss the puck on net, creating a rebound for Mark Pysyk, who jumped up from his defensive position to notch his second goal of the season early in the first period.
A strong shift by the Panthers’ second line to open the middle frame ended with Ian McCoshen finding the back of the net with a point shot to tie the game at two, and Trocheck scored shorthanded to even things up again at three.
Eighteen seconds later on that same Columbus power play, which entered the night with worst success rate in the NHL, the Blue Jackets took the lead once again.
On the season, the Blue Jackets scored just three power play goals, but they had two more under their belt by the time the night was over. They also hadn’t scored more than five goals since February 25th, 2017.
The Panthers weren’t able to manage anything on their lone power play of the game, which carried over from the end of the second period.
Thanks to defensive lapses, Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied two goals each for the Blue Jackets while the Panthers’ red hot top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov, although strong away from the puck, had nothing to show for offensively.
As a result, Huberdeau’s six-game point streak came to an end, as did the Blue Jackets’ four-game losing streak.
The Panthers, who have now allowed 15 goals in their last two games while losing three straight, will have to do some soul-searching in order to get back on track.
They’re now 1-2-1 through four games of a five game homestand, which concludes Saturday against the New York Rangers.
“A loss is a loss is a loss,” said Derek MacKenzie, the team’s captain. “It’s tough to win. But those are excuses and we don’t want to use excuses. We have what we need in this room to win games on most nights and right now we aren’t doing it.”
Obviously, it’ll start on defense as the Panthers allowed the Blue Jackets to record 34 5v5 scoring chances while generating just 15 of their own.
They were also pummeled in high-danger shot attempts, allowing 19 of the 25 total in the game.
Alex Petrovic – who was reinserted into the lineup after sitting out on Monday – and Mike Matheson were on the ice for 16 of the scoring chances against.
“It seems every time we get to that spot the lapses ends up in the back of our net,” said head coach Bob Boughner. “Let’s face it. No one’s going to feel sorry for us. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to get out of it together.”
- This was the first time in franchise history that the Panthers allowed 7 or more goals in back-to-back games.
- Jared McCann was questionable to return against the Blue Jackets but did not play. Connor Brickley and Colton Sceviour also sat out with injuries. Bob Boughner said they’re hopeful to have some players back on Saturday.
- Nick Bjugstad registered four shots on goal. It’s the fourth time he’s done so in through 12 games this season.