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5 Takeaways: Bobrovsky Makes 44 Saves, Panthers Earn Point in Columbus

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

2/4/20 Post Game Interviews

2/4/20 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Mike Hoffman

  • 01:10 •

Sergei Bobrovsky made sure the Florida Panthers left Columbus with at least one point.

Just 24 hours after stopping 31 shots to help lead the Panthers to a win in Toronto on Monday, the veteran goaltender pieced together arguably his best start of the season while turning aside 44 of 45 shots in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.

With the loss, the Panthers (29-17-6) finished their three-game road trip at 1-1-1.

"It was a good point," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think Bob (Bobrovsky) was very instrumental in that fact. [Columbus] played good. Give them a lot of credit. They're on an amazing roll. I think we were fortunate tonight to get that point. I think the last two games we were saying we need to better. We'll take three out of four [points], then let's get going here."

Although there were no goals to speak of in the first period for either team, that doesn't mean the opening 20 minutes didn't have its share of drama. After Boone Jenner appeared to open the scoring for the Blue Jackets, Florida opted to challenge the play, citing goalie interference.

Upon further review, it was determined that Cam Atkinson's stick touched Bobrovsky's glove, which negated Jenner's goal and kept the game scoreless heading into the first intermission.

"I saw two whacks there, and both times it looked like his glove moved at the same time as the whack came, so that was the influence," Quenneville said when asked about his decision to challenge the goal. "We've only made a couple of those all year, and they've both been here."

Following a scoreless second period, things remained tight in the third as the goaltending duel between Bobrovsky and Elvis Merzlikins continued to heat up. Going save for save all the way until overtime, Bobrovsky turned aside 12 shots, while Merzlikins denied eight in the final frame.

In overtime, Zach Werenski lit the lamp at 1:54 to lift the Blue Jackets to a 1-0 win.

With the win, the Blue Jackets (29-16-9) extended their point streak to nine games (8-0-1).

"In the third period I thought we were much better than we were in the second," Quenneville said. "It was that kind of game. We were looking for just a little bit more possession time or momentum in the game, but [Columbus] was certainly very dangerous tonight. We'll take it."

Despite the loss, the Panthers remain on a torrid stretch, going 7-1-1 over their last nine games.

"I felt pretty good," said Bobrovsky, who improved to 9-4-1 over his last 14 starts. "I felt focused. I read the play pretty well. It's one of those things when you work hard, but don't get the result. As I said, we'll put that [game] behind us and move on. It's a long race for the playoff hunt."

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday's overtime loss in Columbus…

1. STELLAR GAME FOR SERGEI

Bobrovsky appears to be settling into his notorious second-half form.

Starting both halves of the back-to-back, the 31-year-old stifled a combined 71 of 75 shots (.947 percent) to help Florida claim three out of a possible four points against Toronto and Columbus.

"At this time of the year, it doesn't really matter," Bobrovsky said of playing on short rest. "The points are crucial. I know it's 30 games [left], but it's going to be a tight race. Every point is huge."

Suiting up against his former team for the third and final time this season, Bobrovsky, who spent seven seasons with the Blue Jackets before joining the Panthers this past summer, was nearly unbeatable throughout the entire game, making even the most-difficult saves look pedestrian.

Of his 44 saves, seven originated from high-danger areas, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

"I thought he looked calm in the net," Quenneville said. "I thought he was very patient with the puck and waiting for it. He controlled his rebounds. Lots of traffic at the net, a lot of activity there, and I thought he did a lot of good things. They were swarming us there. They had some real stretches in our end. He was finding the puck and he was square. He got us one [point]."

Bobrovsky's 44 saves were the second-most he's made in a game this season.

2. ELVIS STANDS TALL

Sometimes you also have to tip your hat to the opposing netminder.

Playing the role of the villain in tonight's goaltending battle, Merzlikins stopped all 32 shots he faced to extend his personal winning streak to seven games. During that span, the 25-year-old rookie has posted three shutouts while stopping 220 of 228 shots for a .965 save percentage.

"He plays with confidence," Bobrovsky said. "You have to give him credit."

That being said, Quenneville said he believes the Panthers could have done a better job of challenging the young netminder, who was tasked with stopping only five high-danger shots.

"Give him credit, but at the same time, not good enough," Quenneville said.

3. PYSK'S MILESTONE

A night after recording his first-career hat trick, Mark Pysyk hit another nice milestone.

By taking the ice in Columbus, the defenseman-turned-forward officially competed in the 400th NHL game of his career. Originally selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, a whopping 275 of those 400 games have come in a Panthers uninform. 

Tweet from @FlaPanthersPR: Tonight vs. CBJ, #FlaPanthers defenseman Mark Pysyk is playing in his 400th @NHL game. pic.twitter.com/w6Lkjju8Tr

Against the Blue Jackets, Pysyk and the rest of the team's fourth line did a good job generating pressure throughout the night. In fact, when Pysyk was on the ice, Florida registered 18 shot attempts -- including six from high-danger areas -- while surrendering just 15 to the opposition.

In 41 games this season, Pysyk has posted 13 points, including a career-high seven goals.

4. WEEGAR RETURNS

After missing the last 15 games, MacKenzie Weegar made his long-awaited return tonight.

Having not played since Dec. 28 while recovering from an upper-body injury, the 26-year-old defenseman was eased back into the action in Columbus. Playing alongside Keith Yandle on the blue line, he recorded one shot, two hits, one block and one takeaway in 13:29 of ice time.

"Good to see Weegs (Weegar) back in the lineup," Quenneville said.

Putting together a career campaign before the injury, Weegar has tallied 12 points (three goals, nine assists) to go along with 48 hits, 39 blocks and 19 takeaways in 29 games played thus far.

"A long time away from the game," Quenneville said. "He's been waiting to get in, working hard at it. I thought he was having an outstanding start to the season there. He had a couple little setbacks, but we want to get him back playing because he can help us in so many ways."

5. COMING HOME

For the first time since Jan. 16, there will be hockey played at BB&T Center.

After wrapping up their road trip in Columbus, the Panthers will return home to Sunrise to kick off a two-game homestand against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. After that, they'll look to sweep their three-game series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

"We're have a day tomorrow to reset and refocus, and then get back to work," Bobrovsky said.

Florida owns a 16-8-2 record at home this season, including wins in three straight games.

To catch all of the action, visit FloridaPanthers.com/Tickets for more information.

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