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Second Round

Panarin risk paying off for Blue Jackets in playoffs

Pending UFA has nine points heading into Game 3 of second round vs. Bruins

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

COLUMBUS -- Artemi Panarin was low in the right circle, so deep that the puck was touching the bottom arc as it was on his stick blade.

The Columbus Blue Jackets left wing barely had an angle to shoot, not much of an opening either. Didn't matter. It rarely does when Panarin has the puck and smells a chance.

So he let loose a wrist shot, his right knee going down to the ice in the follow through. The puck sailed over Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask's left shoulder -- his inside shoulder -- and hit inside the far corner and banged out in an instant. 

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]

 

"I was on the bench when it happened and I saw it in and out so fast," Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson said. "Then you watch the replay, it's a [heck] of a shot. Not a lot of people can get that."

The goal by Panarin, a game-tying, 4-on-4 goal at 8:01 of the second period in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at TD Garden on Saturday, is a snapshot of why the Blue Jackets held onto him before the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline in February.

Video: CBJ@BOS, Gm2: Panarin blasts one-timer for PPG

The risk of losing Panarin for nothing as an unrestricted free agent July 1 was worth the reward of having him score a goal like this, one maybe only a handful of NHL players could score, none of whom would have come to Columbus in a deadline deal for him.

The Blue Jackets are tied 1-1 in the best-of-7 series against the Bruins going into Game 3 at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS), because gambles like keeping Panarin are paying off.

He also scored a power-play goal 1:03 into the second period of Game 2, a low one-timer from the top of the left circle, his preferred side, that was faster than Rask, who had it read and still had no chance. The puck snuck into the net between the left post and Rask's right skate blade.

Matt Duchene scored his double-overtime goal to give Columbus a 3-2 win off a rebound of Panarin's one-timer from the left point.

Panarin has points in all six of the Blue Jackets' playoff games, nine points (four goals, five assists) in all after scoring 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 79 regular-season games.

"He's as advertised," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "I think he's in the top three in the National Hockey League as an overall player."

It's one thing for Panarin to simply be productive; it's another when the Blue Jackets' most dynamic player is making game-changing plays at key times. That's what he did Saturday. That's why his three-point game was so important.

The 4-on-4 goal to tie the game came 35 seconds before the Blue Jackets knew they were going on a penalty kill for three minutes because of Josh Anderson's double-minor for high sticking that negated Zdeno Chara's minor for tripping.

"That's a huge goal for us in that moment," captain Nick Foligno said.

The power-play goal came 63 seconds into the second period to tie the game at 1-1.

"It's never a bad play when you pass it to him," center Pierre-Luc Dubois said. "There's not a lot of gamebreakers in the NHL, not a lot of guys that with a switch can turn the game and make you win a game. He's one of those few players." 

Video: CBJ@BOS, Gm2: Panarin roofs second goal of the game

Ask around, though, and it's obvious Panarin's impact in Columbus, especially in these playoffs, goes well beyond the obvious skill, shot and statistics.

There's the way he is playing away from the puck, a complete buy-in to the Blue Jackets team identity with structure, discipline and defense at the forefront.

"Every winning team has some sort of a dynamic player on their team and you appreciate that, but I think what's more impressive and what sticks with us is how hard he works," Blue Jacketss defenseman Seth Jones said. "He battles for pucks. He competes. You see him get physical when you need to be physical."

Atkinson gave Panarin credit for changing his game for the playoffs to become more of a full-ice player.

Panarin had no points and was a minus-6 in Games 4, 5 and 6 against the Washington Capitals in the first round last season. The Blue Jackets lost all three games to lose the series.

"He's defensively sound, in the right position," Atkinson said. "He's our best player other than [goalie Sergei Bobrovsky] and it's good to see your best player want to make a difference on the defensive side. It kind of brings everyone into the fight. It proves to everyone that hey, if your best guy can do it everyone should be able to do it."

Then there's Panarin's impact off the ice, especially the effect it has on a 20-year-old like Dubois.

"I see him work every day in the gym and in practice and how serious he is," Dubois said. "He's a great example for a guy like me, a young guy that wants to get better. He's one of the best players in the NHL and one of the few gamebreakers in the NHL and he still works as if it's still his first year in the NHL."

It's all paying off for the Blue Jackets and serving as proof that keeping Panarin at the deadline could turn out to be the right move even if he leaves after this season.

They're not going to lose him for nothing because he's giving them everything he has now.

"Everybody sees the skill, everybody sees his stats," Dubois said, "but for me it's the fact that he can go from playing a decent game to making us win in two or three shifts."

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