Last night, the Blue Jackets were resilient and found a way to win in the third period.
Tonight, it was a slightly different story.
Cam Atkinson's 21st goal of the season, which pulled him into a tie for third-most in the NHL, gave Columbus a 2-1 lead late in the first period. At that point, it appeared as though they would take a step forward and control the game. They steadied briefly, but the Florida Panthers pushed back in the second period and took a lead of their own into the locker room after 40 minutes at BB&T Center.
It signaled a momentum shift in favor of the Panthers, who built a two-goal cushion early in the third period and held on for a 4-3 win over the Blue Jackets.
Joonas Korpisalo made his second straight start in goal for Columbus as Sergei Bobrovsky was sent back home with a lingering illness. Like his teammates, he was not as sharp as he was last in Tampa, but this was more a case of the Blue Jackets not being on top of their game for long enough to win.
They've dropped four of six games (2-4-0) since their 16-game winning streak ended on Jan. 7 against the New York Rangers, and now, the Blue Jackets will head back to Columbus for a week of games at Nationwide Arena in hopes of getting back on track.
"We just weren't good enough," coach John Tortorella said. "At the beginning of the second period, we were fine, and they score those two goals and the momentum changes. I thought we had some looks (in the third), but to shoot pucks wide down a goal, that's the wrong thing to do."
Here's what we learned:
SLEEPY BACK TO BACK: Neither of these two games in Florida featured the energy and zip that we've come to see from the Blue Jackets this season. They were slow out of the gate last night in Tampa and Korpisalo kept them in the game with an 18-save first period, and tonight, they fell behind early but battled back to take a lead after 20 minutes. The Panthers seemed to sense a lull in the Blue Jackets' game and outplayed them in the second period, scoring two goals in a 2:22 span to lead 3-2 after two periods. Jaromir Jagr added a goal early in the third period which proved to be the game-winner.
"We lost ourselves (in the second period)," said Boone Jenner. "That's not like us and that's not the game we play. It cost us tonight. It's something we've got to control and be better at."
"When you take a few minutes off in this league, you're going to pay for it," said Scott Hartnell. "Tonight, we did."
Video: CBJ@FLA: Hartnell deflects Murray's shot in for PPG
CAM CLIMBS THE LADDER: As if it wasn't obvious before, it's even clearer now - you cannot turn the puck over the Atkinson and expect to escape unscathed. He made the Panthers pay for a big defensive zone mistake by captain Derek MacKenzie late in the opening period, and Atkinson was waiting high in the zone to pick off MacKenzie's clearing attempt. Atkinson walked into the high slot and snapped a quick shot by the stick side of Panthers goalie James Reimer, giving him as many goals as Alex Ovechkin and one more than Vladimir Tarasenko. It's been a stellar start for Atkinson, who seems to get more confident with each game and is leading the offensive charge for the league's No. 1 team.
Video: CBJ@FLA: Atkinson scores far side with great snipe