The Blue Jackets dropped a 5-1 final to Florida on Tuesday night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.
Game in a Paragraph
Florida's line of former CBJ forward Anthony Duclair, Jonathan Huberdeau and new trade acquisition Sam Bennett had a field day, scoring three times with beautiful goals while pushing the Cats to the win. The Panthers led 2-1 after one period and 5-1 after the third, then took it home from there to deal Columbus its seventh straight loss and earn rookie goalie Spencer Knight a win in his NHL debut.
Quote of the Game
Cam Atkinson: "We did some good things in the first, and then the floodgates opened in the second and third."
- Jack Roslovic netted a goal to give him 10 on the season, plus 30 points, a new career high in the latter category.
- Atkinson notched an assist, leaving him just one point from 400 in his NHL and CBJ career (212-187-399).
Video: CBJ Recap: Roslovic scores in Blue Jackets' 5-1 loss
It was a rough start for the Blue Jackets, who failed to put many pucks on Knight in the first 10 minutes, and also found themselves in a 2-0 hole early. Aleksander Barkov started the scoring 6:52 into the game, tallying on the rush against Joonas Korpisalo. Nikita Gusev entered the zone on the left side and slid the puck across to the right to Barkov, who had time and space to enter the right circle and fired past Korpisalo low blocker.
Just 14 seconds later, Florida took advantage of a CBJ turnover to make it 2-0. A pass in the neutral zone was broken up by Markus Nutivaara right to Huberdeau. The Panthers center entered the zone on the left and centered to Duclair, who made a nice move to get around Michael Del Zotto and fire a shot, with Bennett there to clean up the rebound for his second goal in as many nights.
Knight was tested more as the period went on, first making a big save on Patrik Laine on the rush, before Columbus got one back on the power play at 16:16. Oliver Bjorkstrand threw a puck back door from the right circle, where it ticked off Atkinson and sat in front of Roslovic to whack quickly past Knight.
The former Boston College and Team USA World Juniors goalie thought he had given up another later in the period when Laine fed Roslovic on the rush for what appeared to be his second goal of the night, but Florida challenged for offside and the call was upheld as Stefan Matteau entered the zone just ahead of the puck on Laine's stick.
In the second period, Columbus had a 15-13 edge in shots on goal but got outscored 3-0 as the Panthers took a 5-1 lead thanks to some impressive transition moves. First, Bennett got his second of the night at 7:04, as Roslovic was stripped of the puck at the CBJ offensive blue line, setting off a nifty move as Duclair saucered one right-to-left to Huberdeau, who somehow was denied by Korpisalo only to have Bennett trail the play and bat it home.
CBJ forward Kole Sherwood fought Ryan Lomberg immediately after the goal, but Lomberg got the last laugh when he came out of the box, tallying at 15:42. Frank Vatrano centered a puck and Lomberg, cutting to the net, redirected it in midair past Korpisalo. Just 56 seconds later, it was 5-1, as Duclair made a fantastic bit a stickwork to get open near the left circle then fed the onrushing Huberdeau, who had time to pick his spot past Korpisalo.
Korpisalo did make a fantastic save with his stick along the goal line to keep out Bennett's bid for a hat trick in the final minutes, but Florida completed the victory without much incident in the final frame.
1. Same old story: The Blue Jackets finished the season 1-5-2 against the Panthers, and the difference between the teams was pretty much the same in each game. The Jackets had to fight and claw to try to score goals, while Florida's high-octane offense was able to create consistently in transition. So it was tonight, as Columbus had a 34-33 edge in shots on goal but was done in by some high-flying rush work by Florida. Some of it has to do with the skill of the very confident Panthers, while some of it has to do with consistent mistakes by the Jackets, including giveaways that led directly to goals two and three for Florida. "Turnovers are killing us as we continue to learn, I guess," head coach John Tortorella said postgame. Credit to the Panthers, whose general manager Bill Zito, the former CBJ associate GM, has built quite a team in year one there thanks to an astute offseason that included the acquisitions of Duclair and former Jackets Alexander Wennberg and Markus Nutivaara.
2. No breaks: It would be hard to argue that the Jackets deserved a better fate; at the same time, at some point, this Columbus team has to get a break down the stretch, right? It's obvious the team is an evaluation mode taking a look at players for next year (half of the roster would likely be in the AHL right now if everything had broken right this year and the trades and injuries hadn't happened), but it seems like the Jackets are still trying. They're just making too many mistakes and having to pay for just about all of them, and it's hard to come back given the current roster composition. Add in yet another review decision that went against the team -- it was the right call, but deflating nonetheless -- and this team deserves at least something cosmic to go right.
3. Good Knight: With the Florida rookie making his debut at age 20 -- he didn't even play an AHL game, though he has big-game experience posting a shutout in the World Juniors gold medal game -- you knew the Panthers were going to protect their goalie. But on the reverse side of the coin, the Blue Jackets' goal going into the game against Knight had to be clear -- get pressure on the young netminder. While Columbus ended up with 34 shots on goal, there weren't a ton of grade-A opportunities among them, and they let Knight settle into the game by giving Florida the early lead. "I don't think we did enough, getting pucks to the net and making it hard on him," said Atkinson, like Knight a Boston College product as well as an Avon Old Farms prep school alum. "Obviously I know who he is because he went to BC and the success he's had. Happy for him, but I wish we made it harder on him."
Korpisalo made 28 saves, while Knight had 33 in his first career win. ... Roslovic has a 4-4-8 line in the last eight games. … Bjorkstrand has points in three straight games (1-2-3) and finished with a team-high seven shots on goal. The Maestro notched eight points (5-3-8) in eight games this year vs. Florida. … Barkov has 11 goals in his last 16 games played and finishes the season series with four tallies vs. Columbus. … Bennett notched three goals in the two-game set, while Duclair had five assists, giving him eight helpers in four games this year vs. Columbus. … The Blue Jackets killed both Florida power plays, pushing the CBJ PK to 39-for-43 (90.7 percent) in the last 17 games. … Columbus is 2-12-2 in the last 16 games. ... Florida finished with at last 30 shots on goal in all eight games this year against the Jackets.
Columbus made one change to the skater lineup, inserting defenseman Dean Kukan for Andrew Peeke. He was a healthy scratch along with forwards Max Domi an Mikhail Grigorenko as well as defensemen Gabriel Carlsson and Scott Harrington.
Columbus heads to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning in a two-game series that starts Thursday night at 7 p.m.