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5 Takeaways: Bobrovsky Stands Tall, Leads Panthers Past Blue Jackets

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

12/7/19 Post Game Interviews

12/7/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Mike Hoffman, defenseman Josh Brown and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

  • 01:35 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Sergei Bobrovsky said he's hit the reset button.

Making a triumphant return to the crease after backing up in each of the last two games, the 31-year-old goaltender looked sharp as a tack while stopping 33 of 34 shots to help lift the Florida Panthers to a big 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night at BB&T Center.

"I think I had time to reset, refocus and calm down a little bit," said Bobrovsky, who improved to 10-6-4 on the season. "[I just need to] do my things and try to give the team a chance to win."

Prior to joining the Panthers on a seven-year contract this past summer, Bobrovsky had spent the previous seven seasons in a Blue Jackets jersey, winning the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in 2013 and 2017 while also guiding the club to the playoffs on four occasions.

"It's definitely a great win," Bobrovsky said. "I thought the guys tried as hard as they could to make my job easy. I spent seven years in Columbus. I appreciate that organization for everything that they've done for me. It's kind of weird to face your former teammates. It's a different feeling. I'm so happy to get the two points. I thought the guys played great defensively."

Wasting no time in breaking the ice, Evgenii Dadonov tipped a shot past Elvis Merzlikins just 18 seconds into the first period to give the Panthers an early 1-0 lead. In the second, Josh Brown then doubled the lead when he slipped a shot through Merzlikins' five-hole to make it 2-0 at 8:53.

Brown finished the night with a goal and a fight in 13:25 of ice time.

"It was obviously a big game for [Bobrovsky]," Brown said. "He's been great with us so far. He's a great guy in the room and we look up to him. We were definitely trying to play harder for him."

In the final frame, Brett Connolly extended the lead to 3-0 when he re-directed in a shot on the power play at 6:09. After that, Vladislav Gavrikov finally got the Blue Jackets on the board and spoiled Bobrovsky's shutout with long goal through traffic to cut the deficit down to 3-1 at 10:34.

But with 2:23 left in regulation, Mike Hoffman iced the game with empty-netter that made it 4-1.

"We wanted to start something good here in the home stretch that we've got," Hoffman said. "I think tonight was a big night for that. Obviously, it's Bob's former team. It's nice to get a win for your goalie when that happens. I thought everyone played well."

With the win, Florida improved to 14-9-5 and reclaimed second place in the Atlantic Division.

"I liked everything about his game today," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of Bobrovsky. "It was obviously an interesting day. I'm sure there's a couple ways of looking at it if you're him. It was one of those days where there was a lot of focus on him, a lot of attention. It was a great response. It was nice to see him really set the tone for us right off the bat."

Here are five takeaways from Saturday's win in Sunrise…

1. ON THE RIGHT FOOT

The Panthers couldn't have asked for a better start tonight.

Scoring on their first shot of the game, Dadonov, who was flying through the slot, tipped a long wrist shot from Keith Yandle past Merzlikins to make it 1-0 just 18 seconds into the first period.

Video: CBJ@FLA: Dadonov scores goal 18 seconds into the 1st

"You don't see it too often, but any time it can happen it obviously gives you that extra boost and a little advantage to start," Hoffman said of the momentum generated by Dadonov's early score.

With the goal, Dadonov moved into a tie with linemate Jonathan Huberdeau for the second-most goals on the team with 11. Ranking fourth on the Panthers in scoring with 22 points, the 30-year-old winger has racked up 11 points (five goals, six assists) over his last 14 games.

"Having that early one-goal lead certainly helped us," Quenneville said.

2. BROWN'S BIG NIGHT

Brown finished an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick tonight.

After dropping the gloves with Nick Foligno in the first period, the 25-year-old defenseman found the back of the net in the second. Sneaking down from the blue line unnoticed, he took a cross-ice feed from Aleksander Barkov before scoring from the doorstep to put Florida up 2-0 at 8:53.

Video: CBJ@FLA: Barkov, Brown connect for a sweet goal

"That was great," Brown said of Barkov's slick pass. "He kind of turned back and I was like, 'Oh, man.' But then he just snapped it and it was on my stick. He's amazing. It's fun being out there with him. I'm just happy he passed it to me. It was great, for sure."

In the midst of his second season with the Panthers, Brown has already set new career-highs in goals (2) and points (4) in just 23 games. Known for his intimidating size (he stands 6-foot-5 and 217 pounds) and physicality, he's also recorded 31 hits, 24 blocks and a team-high two fights.

"I think it was a great game all around," Brown said. "Obviously just getting back in the lineup, I wanted to make an impact. I guess getting a goal and fighting helped the team. That's all I'm looking for."

Prior to tonight's game, Brown had been scratched in each of the previous three contests.

"You like guys that respond that way," Quenneville said. "Nobody wants to miss games, but he came back in against a hard, physical team. He did good in the fight - it was a heck of a scrap - and then scores a huge goal for us that ends up being the [game-winner]."

3. CONN THE RUN

Connolly continues to pile up the goals at an exceptional rate.

Setting up shop on top of the crease, the 27-year-old winger re-directed a long shot from Yandle off a defender and straight into the net to extend Florida's lead to 3-0 at 6:09 of the third period.

Video: CBJ@FLA: Connolly banks puck in off defender for PPG

"Huge," Quenneville said of the goal. "We changed the [power play] units there to be a little bit more precautionary with a two-goal lead. Yands made a deceptive shot from the point and Conns had good position on the goalie. Those are the kind of goals that go in there. If you take away [the goalie's] eyes, you'll find a way, especially on the power play."

Leading the Panthers with 13 goals, Connolly also ranks tied for fifth on the team in points (20). Filling up the back of the net recently, he's now scored seven times over his last nine games.

Going 1-for-4 tonight, Florida's power play now ranks sixth in the league at 23 percent.

4. HOFFMAN FROM DEEP

Hoffman scored from deep to put the game away for the Panthers tonight.

With the Blue Jackets pulling Merzlikins late in the third period in favor of the extra attacker, the 30-year-old winger collected a loose puck after a block from Colton Sceviour and floated a shot from well beyond center ice into the empty net to make it 4-1 with 2:23 remaining in regulation.

Video: CBJ@FLA: Hoffman backhands empty-netter late in 3rd

"It seems like those ones can add up," Hoffman said of potting his second empty-net goal of the season, which is tied for the team-lead. "Just happy enough that we could get the two points."

His 11th goal of the season, Hoffman is now tied with Huberdeau and Dadonov for the second-most on the Panthers. He also ranks tied for fifth in points (20), including five goals and five assists over his last 12 games. Of his 11 goals, five have come while on the man advantage.

5. BOBROVSKY BACK IN ACTION

With nine days off between starts, Bobrovsky said he took advantage of his downtime.

"It's a long season," he said. "Sometimes it's good to work behind the scenes to reset."

Leading up to his return, Quenneville noted that Bobrovsky had been having some of his best practices of the season, which clearly carried over into tonight's game. In addition to making at least 30 saves for the eighth time this year, he also went a perfect 5-for-5 on high-danger saves.

"We need to build from this and continue to get together and chip away," Bobrovsky said.

And although Bobrovsky got the win, he did say that his former teammates got in a few chirps.

"[Foligno] tried to go after me a little bit," he said, flashing a smile. "I said, 'I still love you, man.'"

Over his last six starts, Bobrovsky owns a 4-2-0 record.

BONUS: HEROES AMONG US

In honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the Panthers hosted World War II veteran Arnie Kann on his 100th birthday as part of the team's longstanding City Furniture "Heroes Among Us" program.

Video: CBJ@FLA: Panthers celebrate 100th birthday of veteran

To read more about his story, click HERE.

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