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FINAL: Panthers 4, Blue Jackets 2

Del Zotto, Bjorkstrand score but Columbus drops second straight

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The Blue Jackets dropped a 4-2 decision to Florida on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena. 

Game in a Paragraph 

In a game that included chances aplenty, Florida did a better job converting on its looks to earn the win. The Panthers took a 1-0 lead after one, then used a pair of power-play goals to extend the lead to 3-1 after two periods. Columbus got one back midway through the third but couldn't earn the tying goal despite a late push before the Panthers added a late empty-net goal. Sergei Bobrovsky finished with 38 saves for the Panthers in the win. 

Quote of the Game

Head coach John Tortorella: "A lot of good things, but there's still a lot of things we have to corral away from the puck. Frustrating you don't get a result, you don't get any result, but we gotta stay with it. A lot of good minutes, but there's still some things to be cleaned up."

CBJ Standouts 

  • Michael Del Zotto notched his second goal of the season and his CBJ career. 
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand netted his eighth tally of the campaign to draw Columbus within a goal in the third period. He now has an 8-11-19 line to tie for the team lead in points.  
  • Joonas Korpisalo made a number of highlight-reel saves while stopping 29 of 32 shots. 

Video: Panthers, 4 - Blue Jackets, 2

Quick Recap 

A wild back-and-forth first period -- there were a combined 49 shots attempts and 31 shots on goal, with Columbus leading the latter category 16-15 -- ended with Florida up 1-0 thanks to a goal 4:59 into the game. Juho Lammikko came into the zone with speed along the right wing and put a backhander between the legs of Korpisalo to make it 1-0. 

But it truly could have been more for each team, especially Florida, as the Panthers were absolutely robbed on early power play when Aleksander Barkov had the entire net to shoot at only to see Korpisalo dive from his right to his left and make a blocker save in midair right along the goal line on what appeared to be a sure goal. 

Columbus also had its chances, as moments after Korpisalo's robbery, Alexandre Texier set up Cam Atkinson on a cross-crease shorthanded feed only to see the shot ramp up his stick and go wide. Atkinson also had a shorthanded breakaway denied by Bobrovsky and Max Domi had a chance on a rebound with the net mostly open only to see Mackenzie Weegar reach and get a stick on his shot.  

The second period was just as wild, with the Panthers using a pair of power-play goals to take a 3-1 lead after the period. It took just 2:45 for Florida to get the first, as Patric Hornqvist netted his 10th of the year. As usual, the former Penguins forward was camped out in front and deflected a shot from Aaron Ekblad past Korpisalo to make it 2-0. 

Columbus gave up some chances afterward, with Korpisalo denying Carter Verhaeghe in tight and Noel Acciari on a breakaway shortly thereafter, but the Blue Jackets got a goal to make it 2-1 at 5:45. It was a nifty transition play, as Alexandre Texier skated the puck in to the neutral zone and fed Eric Robinson into the zone with speed, then Robinson stopped at the left dot, spun and found Del Zotto cutting to the net for a shot that got between the legs of Bobrovsky. 

Columbus had some more chances later in the period to score again, but both Kevin Stenlund and Patrik Laine hit the left post, the former with what appeared to be an open net off a nice feed from Texier. Those misses proved crucial as Florida notched another power-play goal with 1:42 left in the period, as Owen Tippett put a shot past Korpisalo -- who had already robbed Gustav Forsling in the period with another diving stick save -- from the right circle.  

The Blue Jackets came out strong in the third and had a golden chance to cut the Florida lead to 3-2 within the first four minutes as Cam Atkinson set up Nick Foligno across the crease on a 2-on-0, but Foligno put the puck wide of the net from right in front. The teams also traded chances later, as Laine got behind the defense but couldn't find his handle on the shot as he cut in alone on Bobrovksy, while moments later, Korpisalo denied Frank Vatrano on a breakaway. 

Columbus finally found a second goal with 8:22 to go as Bjorkstrand tallied to cut the Florida lead in half. Zach Werenski intercepted a Florida clearing pass and hit The Maestro as he cut to the net, and Bjorkstrand didn't miss as he put an expert tip past Bobrovsky to make it 3-2.  

The Blue Jackets had some looks from there including on a late power play, but Bobrovsky made a number of saves late on Laine and Verhaeghe scored an empty-net goal with 22.4 seconds to go to end things. 

3 Takeaways

1. An entertaining, even game: A 4-2 final really could have been another one of those 6-5 games the Blue Jackets already have participated in this season a few times. Columbus missed a number of open nets and hit a couple of posts, while Florida was stymied mostly by Korpisalo, who had an interesting night to say the least. In the end, a relatively even game -- Columbus had more shots, Florida a little better shot quality -- came down the Panthers one more chance than the Blue Jackets. Well, another difference -- Florida finished 2-for-4 on the power play while Columbus was 0-for-3. A team struggling to find goals now has just one power-play goal in the last seven games after tallying three times Feb. 23 vs. Chicago. "I thought we played a decent game," Atkinson said, thoughts echoed by Tortorella, but the Jackets are running out of games where they play with a team but don't get points in the standings.

2. Offensive push: The best part of the game is that a Blue Jackets team that generated chances only in fits and starts for much of the season looked noticeably more confident with the puck on their stick, something that pleased Tortorella. "I think it's the willingness to make plays," Tortorella said. "I think we did that for the most part. ... I want us to have the confidence and courage to make plays and not always be dumping pucks in." The third period in particular saw the CBJ push, and the head coach liked what he saw there. The flip side were the golden chances that didn't go in, headlined by Foligno's miss of an open net early in the third, but you could also point to looks for Atkinson, Domi, Stenlund and Laine that very well could have gone in were it not for last-gasp defensive plays by Florida or shots that just barely missed the mark for the Jackets. "We had a lot of chances," Atkinson said. "Just one of those nights where we couldn't bury for whatever reason."

3. Defensive ups and downs: If there was one thing that rankled Tortorella, it was the defensive play in the second period, as the Blue Jackets gave up 10 scoring chances to the Panthers in that period. "I hated how we defended in the second period, hated how soft we were in the second period." Tortorella said it's an easy fix and centers on commitment, but some of the defensive struggles with giving up too much space and ice returned. It was also a weird night for Korpisalo -- he made almost all the difficult saves, including his 10-bell diving stick stops and multiple breakaway saves, but was left disappointed by the first goal, a simple backhander in transition that leaked through the pads. "Soft goal," he said, while Tortorella called it "lousy." In general, he played well, but Bobrovsky won the duel of goalies that spent four years with one another. But add it all up and the Jackets were one goal short. 

Notable 

Bobrovksy earned his second win in Nationwide Arena this season. ... Florida finished 2-4 on the power play while Columbus was 0-3. ... CBJ forward Jack Roslovic skated in his 200th NHL game. … Atkinson led Columbus with seven shots on goal while Laine had six. … Hornqvist has scored 17 goals in his career vs. Columbus, the most against any team. … Columbus gave up the first goal for just the ninth time in 27 games. … The loss snapped a 16-game points streak in Nationwide Arena vs. Florida, as Columbus had a 14-0-2 record in that span dating back to 2009-10.  

Roster Report 

The Blue Jackets made no changes to the 18-skater lineup, using the same lineup for the seventh game in a row. Scratches were forward Mikhail Grigorenko as well as defensemen Dean Kukan and Scott Harrington. 

Up Next 

Columbus and Florida meet again Thursday night at 7 p.m. in what will be the last game between the teams this year at Nationwide Arena.  

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