In defeat, Florida owned big advantages in shot attempts (73-42) and scoring chances (32-12).
"We had some great chances, some great looks," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of the team's performance in the final game of 2019. "They had some fortunate bounces. We didn't get the bounces we were looking for. We did some good things, but don't think it's good enough."
While the Panthers appeared to be in control early on, the Blue Jackets netted the lone goal of the first period. After Alexander Wennberg won a faceoff draw in the offensive zone, Zach Werenski beat Sergei Bobrovsky with a blazing slap shot from the beyond the left circle to make it 1-0 at 4:54.
Colton Sceviour evened up the game for the Panthers in the second period, tipping a long shot past Elvis Merzlikins to make it 1-1 at 3:39. But at 15:34, Boone Jenner put Columbus back on top when he converted on the power play to make it 2-1 heading into the second intermission.
"We didn't mind the way we were going after 40 minutes," Quenneville said. "I know we were down, we were trailing, but then they score a couple goals that really changed the complexion."
In the third period, Werenski completed the first hat trick of his NHL career with goals at 4:13 and 8:04, respectively, to give the Blue Jackets a 4-1 lead. The eighth-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, the 22-year-old is the third defensemen in the franchise's history to net a hat trick.
Merzlikins stopped 36 of 37 shots to earn his first NHL win, while Bobrovsky made 24 saves.
"I thought we had a lot of good looks on the power play, but when your goaltender's kicking like Elvis was tonight, it's tough to get a few by him," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. "Sometimes you have to tip your cap, but we've just got to continue to build on that one."
Despite tonight's loss, the Panthers have still won five of their last seven games and enter 2020 with a 20-14-5 record - just one point behind Tampa Bay for third place in the Atlantic Division.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, improved to 18-14-8 and pushed their point streak to 11 games.
"Move forward," Quenneville said of the road ahead. "We won some games there. Maybe we were fortunate, but at the same time there's a lot of positives exiting this game. Let's think about it one game at a time on the rest of this trip and let's recapture some momentum here."
Here are five takeaways Tuesday's loss in Columbus…
1. SCEVIOUR SCORES
Trailing 1-0, it looked like the scales were tipping back in Florida's favor after this goal.
Setting up in the slot, Sceviour shrugged off a defender before tipping a long shot from Anton Stralman past Merzlikins and into the twine to tie the game 1-1 at 3:39 of the second period.
Video: FLA@CBJ: Sceviour tips Stralman's point shot home
"Establish a net-front [presence], try and create, get an ugly goal, a rebound, a deflection or something," Sceviour said of his strategy on the goal. "We were fortunate to get one there."
A staple of Florida's fourth line, Sceviour has notched 10 points (four goals, six assists) while playing in all 39 games this season. In addition to his points, the 30-year-old winger has also registered 42 hits and 37 blocks while also leading the team in shorthanded ice time (97:48).
With an assist on Sceviour's goal, Stralman extended his point streak to three games.
In his first season with the Panthers, the 33-year-old defenseman has posted 14 points (four goals, 11 assists in 39 games this season, including one goal and two assists during his streak.
Stralman also ranks first on the team in blocks (59) and second in average time on ice (21:06).
3. WAIT A SECOND
While they didn't factor onto the scoresheet, Florida's second line had quite a showing.
At 5-on-5 play, the trio of Vincent Trocheck, Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari simply dominated the possession game throughout the night. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Panthers owned massive advantages in shots (12-1) and shot attempts (26-5) while they were on the ice.
In terms of basic numbers, the trio also combined for eight shots, three hits and two blocks.
It's safe to say that if that line keeps playing like that, the goals will certainly come soon.
3. BOB'S HOMECOMING
The battle between Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets has been evened up.
After making 33 saves in a 4-1 win over his former team on Dec. 7 in Sunrise, Bobrovsky allowed four goals on 28 shots to earn the loss in his first game back in Columbus tonight.
Prior to joining the Panthers on a seven-year contract this past summer, the 31-year-old veteran spent the previous seven seasons in Columbus, winning the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender in 2013 and 2017 while also backstopping the club to the playoffs on four occasions.
"All the emotions are weird," said Bobrovsky, who owns a 14-11-4 record this season. "It's tough to describe. To be on the other side of the bench here is different. We're going to play more hockey against them."
During the first period, Bobrovsky received a video tribute and a standing ovation from fans.
"It was lots of memories," he said.
5. ROAD TRIP ROLLS ON
New year, same goal.
The Panthers will continue their long push towards the playoffs when the 2020 portion of their campaign kicks off with three more road games this week. After visiting Ottawa on Thursday, they'll make two more stops in Buffalo and Pittsburgh on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Moving forward, Yandle said Florida can build off tonight's loss.
"I think we can take a lot of good things away," he said. "I think we managed the puck. Our forwards did a good job forechecking, getting pucks back and holding onto it. We'll obviously build on that and find ways to get points on this road trip."
Over their last three back-to-back sets, the Panthers own a 6-0-0 record.