The Columbus Blue Jackets visited the Florida Panthers on Thursday night to kick off a three-game stretch away from home. After giving up eight goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, the Panthers were looking for a better effort against the CBJ.
Thursday’s game got off to a quick start, but it was the Panthers who got on the board first. Vincent Trocheck skated into the Jackets’ zone and got a bad-angle shot off on Sergei Bobrovsky. The rebound went right to defenseman Mark Pysyk, who buried it to give the home team a 1-0 lead just prior to the five minute mark of the first period.
After the Pysyk goal, the game was temporarily taken over by CBJ forward Josh Anderson. With 8:28 left in the first, Anderson beat Panthers goaltender James Reimer after a nifty pass from Brandon Dubinsky behind the net to tie the game up. Anderson ripped another puck past Reimer with 3:33 remaining in the first period off a Markus Nutivaara pass from the corner to put the Jackets on top 2-1.
Josh Anderson, who tied Sonny Milano for the team lead in goals with his two in the first period, now has eight points in his last nine games. After the game, head coach John Tortorella expressed his excitement for the kind of player Anderson can be:
To me, the potential he has…and potential is a very dangerous word…but he has everything…there’s no limit in what he can become.
The 2-1 CBJ lead didn’t last very long into the second period. Just 35 seconds in, Panthers defenseman Ian McCoshen beat a well-screened Bobrovsky from just inside the blue line to tie the game up at two.
Less than five minutes later, Markus Hannikainen sent a backhander past Reimer to put the Jackets back up by one goal. It was Hannikainen’s first goal of the year and second of his National League Hockey career.
The most important sequence of the game happened a little over eight minutes into the second period.
With the Jackets on the power play, Zach Werenski slipped and fell chasing a puck that was just cleared from the offensive zone, allowing Vincent Trocheck to gather the puck and skate it into the CBJ zone. He whiffed on a shot from the corner, but the puck somehow got by Sergei Bobrovsky and just crossed over the line. The shorthanded goal tied the game back up 3-3.
Still on the man advantage, Oliver Bjorkstrand responded just 28 seconds later with a slap shot that beat Reimer. The goal, assisted by Seth Jones and Sonny Milano, put the Jackets up 4-3 and was the last straw for Panthers head coach Bob Boughner, who pulled Reimer from the game in favor of new backup goaltender Antti Niemi.
Tortorella praised Sonny Milano, who was a healthy scratch for their last game on Monday, for setting up Bjorkstrand’s goal:
He makes a great play to start the power play goal…a huge goal to me in the game after that piece of crap goal, the shorthander. We come right back and Sonny makes a huge play to [Jones] and then over to [Bjorkstrand]…huge play.
Just over two minutes after his goal, Oliver Bjorkstrand added another on a great individual effort. After gathering the puck along the boards behind the net, OBJ skated around the corner, got knocked down from behind, took back control of the puck, circled out in front of Niemi with defenders all around him and sent a wrister to the back of the net to extend the CBJ lead to 5-3.
The score would remain 5-3 until the early portion of the third period. At the 3:45 mark of the third, Tyler Motte added his second goal in as many games to make it 6-3. Boone Jenner would then deflect an Artemi Panarin shot on the Jackets’ third power play of the night to put the visitors up 7-3, which would ultimately be the final score.
After failing to score for 11 straight power plays heading into the evening, the Blue Jackets went 2-for-4 on the PP against the Panthers. Another encouraging sign is the balanced scoring the team is getting. After the game, Torts elaborated on his thoughts about his team’s scoring trends:
Right now we’re just not getting much from our top guys…but it’s nice to score 7 goals and [Foligno] has nothing, [Wennberg] has nothing, [Panarin] has nothing, although he takes the shot. And eventually those guys are going to come, they’re just too good of players and they’re too conscientious about their game, so if we can get them both married a little bit here…then you have something.
Tortorella closed his brief postgame press conference by saying:
That’s as close as it’s come to how we want to play.
The CBJ, who improved to 9-4-0 on the season, will stay in Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. Their meeting in Columbus just a couple weeks ago resulted in a 2-0 shutout loss for the Jackets, who will be looking to return the favor this time at Amalie Arena.