The Florida Panthers (19-12-4) entered the three-day holiday break playing some of their best hockey of the season. They've their last five straight, and 11 out of their last 14, to place themselves squarely in the postseason conversation.
In their last two games before Christmas, the Panthers earned a 5-4 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks and also a 2-1 shootout victory over the Ottawa Senators. It's taken some extra work to get the job done lately, but Florida's been coming away with two points more often than not.
Brandon Pirri and Aleksander Barkov delivered for the Panthers in their shootout against the Senators. It was the second straight game in which both of those players scored in a shootout to help the Panthers to a win.
The Panthers game against the Blue Jackets (13-21-3) will mark their first after the holiday. In contrast, this game will mark the back-end of a two game road trip for Columbus, which dropped a 5-2 game in Tampa Bay last night.
Some Blue Jackets notes: Rookie goaltedner Joonas Korpisalo started in net for the Blue Jackets on Saturday and was pulled after two periods. He’s made four of the team’s last five starts since his NHL debut two weeks ago against the Lightning.
Captain Nick Foligno is not on the trip and is listed as day-to-day. Sergei Bobrovsky traveled with the team to Florida and participated in the morning skate, but did not play.
Earlier this month (Dec. 4, to be exact), the Florida Panthers and the Blue Jackets battled through 60 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime at Nationwide Arena before needing a shootout to reach a result. Columbus eventually lost, 2-1, in the shootout.
Vincent Trocheck opened the scoring for Florida at 1:16 of the second period to give the visitors the lead. But at the 12:49 mark, Michael Chaput evened the score with a nifty finish on Al Montoya.
Aleksander Barkov scored the game-winning goal in the fourth round of the shootout, giving the Panthers a 5-0-0 record on their road trip.
Cam Atkinson was the only Blue Jackets player to score during the shootout, and Bobrovsky made 31 saves in defeat.
The Blue Jackets are 13-5-1 all-time against the Panthers, including 10-1-1 in the last 12 meetings.
At age 43, Jaromir Jagr is leading the Panthers with 25 points. So far this season, he’s notched 10 goals and added 15 assists and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The seemingly ageless right winger was selected by Pittsburgh with the No. 5 overall pick in the 1990 NHL Draft — before many of his current teammates were even born.
Jagr recently scored his 732nd career goal, passing Marcel Dionne for fourth place on the NHL’s all-time list, and seems to be breaking records on a regular basis this season.
To put things into perspective, he’s currently nine goals behind Brett Hull for third place. Wayne Gretzky’s 894 goals are most in the league’s history, 93 more than Gordie Howe.