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5 Takeaways: Top-Line Strong, But Panthers Come Up Short Against Columbus

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

10/11/18 Post Game Interviews

10/11/18 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Bob Boughner, Aleksander Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov and James Reimer

  • 01:25 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - As it was in their season opener on Saturday in Tampa, the Florida Panthers outshot their opponent but simply couldn't lock down the win in a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Thursday night's home opener at BB&T Center.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the Panthers scored unanswered straight goals to take a 3-2 lead midway through the second period. From there, the two clubs - who finished one point apart in last year's wild card standings - traded goals before the Jackets tied it early in the third.

Then, with the game looking like it was destined to head to overtime, Cam Atkinson pounced on a rebound in front of Florida's let, backhanding the puck past James Reimer to put Columbus ahead 5-4 with what proved to be game-winning goal with 2:46 left in regulation.

In control for most of the game, Florida bested the Jackets in both shots (41) and even-strength shot attempts (53).

"We had our chances," said Panthers coach Bob Boughner, frustrated after another tough loss in which his team out-attempted its opponent. "We hit a couple posts. If you score four goals at home, you should win."

In his first start in place of the injured Roberto Luongo, Reimer stopped 27 of 32 shots.

"I thought we played well for the most part," said Reimer, who stopped 15 of 16 shots in his first appearance of the season on Saturday in Tampa. "Honestly, a couple bad bounces. I thought we worked hard and had our chances. They got a couple lucky ones. That's just the way it goes sometimes… that happens in the game of hockey. You don't expect a bunch of them to happen in one game, but at least now they're used up, so they won't be around for a while."

Florida (0-1-1) will look for its first win of the season at home against Vancouver on Saturday.

Here are five takeaways from Thursday's loss in Sunrise…

1. DIGGING A HOLE

With five days in between their first and second games of the season, the Panthers came out a bit slow in Thursday's home opener, allowing two uncharacteristic goals in the first period that would eventually come back to bit them.

Zach Werenski was able to open the game at 13:29 after penalties from Frank Vatrano and Mike Matheson sent the Jackets to a lengthy 5-on-3 power play. Later, a neutral zone turnover sent Panarin on a breakaway that he went on to bury to make it 2-0 at 17:20.

After the game, Boughner pointed to those specific goals as big difference makers.

"It's pretty well in the back of your net when you take a 5-on-3," Boughner said. "If you turn one over with a minute to go on the clock at center ice and give them a breakaway [for] Panarin, chances are it's in the back of the net. You're down 2-0. Erase those two goals right there and we win the hockey game."

As you can see in the chart below, the Panthers went on to dominate the final 41 minutes of the contest, outscoring Columbus 4-3 while holding a massive 44-19 advantage in shot attempts at 5-on-5. In the end the early hole they dug for themselves was simply too much to overcome.

 

"I was real happy to see how we controlled the rest of the game," Boughner said. "Our guys came back. I thought we were good. I thought we had some chances, even right up until the end when we pulled our goalie. They pounced on theirs. We scored four. It should have been good enough to win."

2. DADDY'S HOME

There were only a handful of players in the NHL that were more effective during the second half of last season than Evgenii Dadonov. Following the All-Star break, the Russian import led the Panthers with 36 points, including a team-high 18 goals - the eighth-most in the league during that span.

Picking up right where he left off, the 29-year-old winger scored Florida's first home goal of the 2018-19 season, finishing off a 2-on-1 break with Aleksander Barkov to cut the Jackets' lead down to 2-1 with 11 seconds left in the first. After the game, however, Dadonov was only thinking about the goal his line let in, rather than the several it produced.

"We just tried to play, but it wasn't enough," Dadonov said. "We gave up the last goal."

Video: CBJ@FLA: Barkov sets up Dadonov late in the 1st

In his first season back from the KHL, Dadonov posted a career-high 28 goals and 37 assists in 74 games with the Panthers last season. He also led Florida with five multi-goal performances, while his 21 multi-point games were second only to Barkov. Both finished with multi-point nights on Thursday.

"They were flying tonight," Boughner said of Florida's top line. "They had a great game."

3. RETURNING THE FAVOR

What's better than Barkov to Dadonov? Dadonov to Barkov, of course!

Entering the second period down by a goal, the top-line duo took the game over to tie things up. After jumping on a loose puck in the defensive zone, Barkov sent the puck up to Dadonov, who carried into the offensive zone before setting up Barkov for an easy goal to make it 2-2 at 6:29 of the second frame.

"We scored a couple goals, but we lost 5-4," Barkov said. "It doesn't matter. We need to learn how to win games. We need to learn how to block shots at the end, to do those small, little things that makes us win games. We have a great team, we have great players, we're playing really well, but they're getting easy wins on us."

Video: CBJ@FLA: Dadonov, Barkov combine to tie it up

On the verge of superstardom, Barkov posted a career-high 78 points (27 goals, 51 assists) in 79 games during the 2017-18 campaign. And although he said after the game that he would have preferred the win, the performance of his line certainly bodes well for the rest of the year.

"There's a lot of positives in our game," Barkov said. "We're playing really well in the offensive zone."

4. THE NEW GUY

Welcome to South Florida, Troy Brouwer.

In his first home game in a Panthers jersey, the 33-year-old forward announced his presence to the Sunrise faithful in a big way. With the game tied 2-2, the wily veteran positioned himself in front of the Columbus net before deflecting a shot from teammate Mark Pysyk through Joonas Korpisalo's pads to put Florida ahead 3-2 at 8:57 of the second period.

Video: CBJ@FLA: Brouwer puts Panthers ahead with deflection

"They did their job tonight," Boughner said of Brouwer's fourth line. "He came up with a big goal. I liked [Juho] Lammikko, [Colton] Sceviour, that whole line. Again, unfortunate. It sucks right now, but we'll look at the tape right now and get ready for Vancouver."

A member of the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, Brouwer was signed by the Panthers to in August to provide some added experience to Florida's youthful locker room. Browuer's first two games with Florida have been very positive.

5. BJUG-STUD

After watching his linemates score, Bjugstad felt he had to get in on the action.

With the seconds ticking away in the second period, the 26-year-old big man out-muscled a defender near the top of the crease, freeing himself to make a play. Alone in front of the net, Bjugstad then took a slick pass from Dadonov and smashed it home to put Florida back on top 4-3 with nine seconds left on the clock.

Video: CBJ@FLA: Bjugstad finishes Dadonov's dish late in 2nd

Making the full-time switch from center to wing last season, Bjugstad seems to have found his calling on the right side of Florida's top line. A consistent contributor at 5-on-5, he finished last season with new career highs in points (49), assists (30) and games played (82).

Even after complimenting Bjugstad's play, Barkov said that his teammates are focused less on the individual numbers in Thursday's loss, and more on the points they once again failed to pick up in the standings.

"The last two games, I feel like we should have won both games," Barkov said. "We should have had four points, not one. You cannot do anything anymore. You just need to concentrate on the next game.

 

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