For a team playing its fifth game in seven nights (!), the Blue Jackets certainly brought their legs in an important third period tonight.
Down 1-0 and having controlled most of the game, frustration certainly could have gotten the best of them. Roberto Luongo played a strong game and, despite some rebound trouble early in the game, was pretty tidy as the game progressed. His play, coupled with the Blue Jackets just looking for a bounce or two to go their way, delayed the tying goal until late in regulation.
Brandon Saad, one of Columbus' best forwards on this two-game Florida trip, tied the game with a no-look backhand chopper with 7:10 to play. Down the stretch, the Blue Jackets persisted and nearly had the go-ahead goal on a couple of occasions, but picked up another valuable point in a shootout loss.
John Tortorella felt just as his players did: not getting the second point is a bummer, but handling this brutal stretch with points in four of five games and having a chance in each of them is encouraging.
"We hung in there, found a way to get a point," Tortorella said. "Five games in seven nights here at 2-1-2…we'll go home feeling pretty good about ourselves.
"We picked up right where we left off last night with how quick we were playing and how quick we were going north. You always want the extra point, but to grind away here on the road and get one (point) on a back-to-back, we'll take it."
Video: CBJ@FLA: Saad ties the game with no-look backhander
Here's what we learned:
No excuses, just play: This was not going to be an easy game for the Blue Jackets. With the five-game week coming to an end and following up an emotional game last night, the setting was certainly ripe for the Panthers. But as Tortorella has said many times: in order for his team to gain some respect around the league, it's not complaining about the schedule, defaulting to perceived built-in excuses or being content with things. They're okay with a point, no doubt, but upset about letting one get away in the shootout. Trailing by a goal after two periods, the Blue Jackets once again put together an energetic third period and cracked through for an equalizer.
"We got better each period getting pucks to the net. It's a huge point for us," Saad said. "There were rebounds that we missed here and there or were late getting to it…we finally got one. We'll take that point."
Video: Torts' reaction to the Blue Jackets' win
Overcome the hot goalie: Luongo was terrific, plain and simple. He made 36 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped all three Blue Jackets attempts in the shootout. You tip your cap to the goaltender for leading the way for his team, but credit also goes to the Blue Jackets for continuing to bang away at it and, regardless of how it happens or what it looks like, finding a way to sneak one past him. Saad's backhander was his second goal in as many games (more on him below) and helped Columbus lock up a three-point weekend.
"(Luongo) had a good game, but we've got to find a way to score some more goals," said Alexander Wennberg. "It's up to us. We obviously wanted the extra point here, but these two games are tough against these teams. It was a tough game."
Video: Saad on taking 3 points from the Florida road trip
Saader on a roll: Tortorella called Saad's effort on Friday night one of the most competitive games he's seen from his young power forward. He was fast, physical, protected pucks and scored a big tiebreaking goal in the third period. Saad was back at it tonight, bouncing around with different line mates a couple of times and making things happen offensively. The tying goal was a broken play in the right circle, but Saad's awareness and strength to win a one-on-one battle enabled him to direct the puck toward Luongo - and the Panthers goaltender seemed a bit surprised by the velocity of the shot. Saad was over 56% in shot attempts at even strength in nearly 18 minutes played, and made his mark with a key goal.
"It was a good face-off play by Dubi to Cam, and the puck fell to me," Saad said. "I was just trying to get a whack at it, and it found a way in."