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Post Game: Panthers 3, Blue Jackets 2

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets won’t be pleased with letting two points slip away in south Florida tonight.

It’s quite the contrast from their last trip to BB&T Center, when Sergei Bobrovsky stole the show with a 50-plus save performance and more dramatics in the shootout to earn a 4-3 victory. Tonight, it was a story of missed opportunities and costly mistakes at the wrong time that led to a 3-2 defeat, their first in Sunrise since 2004.

"In the first period, we didn't turn the puck over," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "And then (in the second period) we got away from our game and the things that bring us success. Our puck pursuit wasn't as good as it was in the first."

Columbus entered the game 10-0-0 in its last 10 meetings with the Panthers and with both teams in a desperate, win-at-all-costs situation, it set up for an entertaining hockey game right from the get-go. The Blue Jackets were on the front foot, driving the net and establishing a decided territorial advantage but coming up empty on their chances, but they broke through early in the second period.

Jack Johnson stepped into a one-timer off a drop pass from Cam Atkinson, beating Roberto Luongo high to the glove side at 1:08 of the second period. But as was the case on Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals, the Blue Jackets’ lead was short-lived.

Jonathan Huberdeau tied the game on a net-mouth flurry just 1:41 later, and the Panthers took the lead later in the second period on a long slap shot from rookie Aaron Ekblad. Alexander Wennberg’s second goal of the season - and second of his NHL career - tied the game late in the second and it was a thing of beauty.

Wennberg “bunted” an Artem Anisimov centering pass out of mid-air and beat Luongo, with the goal holding up after a video review in the NHL Situation Room. The Jackets and Panthers were tied up 2-2 heading to the third period, and Florida was first to break through.

Sean Bergenheim went to the net and was battling for position with Johnson when a wrist shot from Dmitry Kulikov sailed toward McElhinney. Bergenheim got a stick on the puck - it was deemed of legal height after another video review - and he gave Florida a 3-2 lead with 6:52 left, and it stood as the game-winner.

"We had a few turnovers in our zone and got away from our game a little bit," Brandon Dubinsky said. "It's all about results for us, and we've got to find a way to get points. We have to wrap our heads around it tonight and be ready to practice tomorrow and come back to work."

The Bergenheim go-ahead goal was a double whammy for the Blue Jackets; not only did the goal put them in a 3-2 hole, there was a double-minor high sticking penalty assessed to Johnson on the play, and with the goal scored, the penalty was reduced to two minutes. So instead of get back to work after the goal and try to tie things up, the Jackets had to first kill a penalty at a crucial juncture and then make something happen in the final five minutes. That sequence of events late in the third period made Columbus’ comeback attempt a bit more challenging with limited time remaining.

at Tampa Bay Lightning
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Amalie Arena
Tampa, FL

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