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FINAL: Panthers 4, Blue Jackets 1

Gavrikov tallies as Columbus suffers setback in first game of road swing

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The Blue Jackets' skid continued Saturday night as the team dropped a 4-1 decision at Florida at the BB&T Center.  

Game in a Paragraph 

The Blue Jackets fell into an early hole, trailing 1-0 in the first minute, and never got it back. The Panthers made it 2-0 in the second and 3-0 in the third on a power play. Columbus scored in the final 10 minutes but still earned its fourth straight loss.  

Video: CBJ Recap: Gavrikov scores in Blue Jackets' 4-1 loss

Quote of the Game

Head coach John Tortorella: "You don't want to write it up that way (giving up a goal in the first 18 seconds). After that, I thought we played a good first period. Where I think we lose ourselves a little bit was in the second period. In the first nine, 10 minutes, we just played in spurts. They turned it up a little bit. We had a breakdown in coverage and then they get the second."

CBJ Notables 

  • Elvis Merzlikins finished with 23 saves including a number of excellent stops in the second period.  
  • Rookie defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov scored his second NHL goal.  

Quick Recap 

It took just 18 seconds for the Panthers to take the lead on a deflected goal. Keith Yandle got the puck at the left point and threw the puck toward the net, where it deflected first off Aleksandar Barkov then Evgenii Dadonov, who tipped it past Merzlikins as he cut in front of the net.  

Nick Foligno tried to get the Blue Jackets going with 5:04 left in the period as he dropped the gloves for the team's second fight of the year, an old-school bout with Josh Brown that saw each player exchange shots throughout. 

Columbus had a 9-3 edge in shots on goal in the first but left it down 1-0, and the Panthers created better looks in the second. Merzlikins was on his game, though, including an excellent side-to-side stop on a power-play shot by Frank Vatrano and a follow-up denial of Brian Boyle. But his best stop came about eight minutes in on a 2-on-1, as Mike Hoffman was set up on the pass across but Merzlikins flashed his glove spectacularly to make the stop.  

Video: CBJ@FLA: Merzlikins flashes leather for superb save

But he couldn't stop them all, as Brown got on the board at 8:03 of the period to make it 2-0. The blueliner snuck in back-door and took a slick feed from the left wall from Barkov, sliding it through Merzlikins' legs for the tally.  

Sergei Bobrovsky made a nice stop on Cam Atkinson's shorthanded chance late in the second, and the former CBJ goalie had 24 stops through the first two periods.  

The Panthers then made it a 3-0 game 6:09 into the third on the power play. It was Yandle again who let it go from the right point, and Brett Connolly tipped it off Seth Jones and past Merzlikins from in front for his team-high 13th goal of the year.  

Columbus pushed after the 3-0 goal and got on the board with 9:26 to go. Gavrikov -- who had a sequence in the second period in which he blocked three shots by Hoffman -- got a much-deserved goal, as he fired from the center point past Bobrovsky's glove through a screen.

"I saw (Josh Anderson) in front of the net," Gavrikov said. "It was a great screen by him. I tried to find the spot and I did."

Hoffman set the final score with with 2:23 to go as he flipped an empty-net goal from his own blue line that landed and skidded into the net.

3 Takeaways

1. For a team having trouble scoring goals, being down 1-0 on the scoreboard on the first shot of the game felt like a bit of a mountain to climb. Merzlikins didn't have much chance on a double deflection, the latest bit of puck luck to go against the Jackets in a season of struggles. "It's bad to start the game like this," Merzlikins admitted, though as Tortorella said, it didn't seem to faze Columbus, which was stout defensively the rest of the first period. But simply being down was not where the team wanted to be considering their struggles putting the puck in the net this season. "If you're only putting up one or two (goals), you almost have to play perfect," Tortorella said.

2. Tortorella saw an opportunity for the Blue Jackets to change their luck and it came shorthanded late in the second period down 2-0. The three straight shot blocks by Gavrikov -- who was clearly laboring after the second -- could have been a momentum changer, and later on the same penalty kill Atkinson got behind the defense on a half breakaway. But he ran out of space and could only put a backhander on net that Bobrovsky turned away. "Those are the plays that need to happen for us," Tortorella said. "We need a big play at a key time. We had an opportunity there after Gavy (blocks those shots), and we don't get it. I know Cam is trying, but we don't get it."

3. On the goaltending front, it was certainly an interesting battle with Bobrovksy on one end and Merzlikins on the other. It hasn't been the season either hoped, with Bobrovsky near the bottom of the NHL in most statistical categories and Merzlikins still searching for his first NHL win after seven starts. Merzlikins was really good when the Panthers pushed in the second period, but a pair of deflected goals and a blown coverage gave Florida all it needed. Bobrovsky, meanwhile, looked sharp before greeting many of his former teammates outside the locker room postgame. 

Notable 

The Blue Jackets were 0-for-3 on the power play while Florida was 1-4. ... Bobrovksy finished with 33 saves. ... The game was John Tortorella's 1,286th coached in the NHL, which pushes him up to 14th all-time in games coached in NHL history, passing Darryl Sutter. … Columbus fell to 0-10-3 when giving up the first goal. … Playing in the first game of a four-game road swing, the Blue Jackets dropped to 3-6-3 on the road this year. … The loss snapped a seven-game win streak vs. Florida and a 5-0-1 run for the Blue Jackets against Atlantic Division teams. … The Blue Jackets have scored 13 combined goals in Merzlikins' seven starts, and the rookie goalie from Latvia fell to 0-4-3. … The Blue Jackets had six rookies in the lineup.  

Roster Report 

Alexander Wennberg was made a healthy scratch for the first time this year, while Eric Robinson returned to the lineup. Defenseman Scott Harrington was also a healthy scratch for the second game in a row. In addition, forward Emil Bemstrom suffered an upper-body injury in the second period and did not return.  

Up Next 

The Blue Jackets head to our nation's capital to take on Metropolitan Division rival Washington for the first time this year on Monday night.  

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