The Columbus Blue Jackets came into Thursday’s game holding a playoff spot while the Florida Panthers were on the outside looking in. Following the 4-0 CBJ victory, the postseason fates of each team became a little clearer.
Both clubs entered Thursday’s matchup with hot goaltenders. Sergei Bobrovsky had won six consecutive starts while Roberto Luongo had won nine of his last 13 games. Perhaps it was no surprise then that neither side was able to get on the board in the first period.
While a scoreless first period usually isn’t noteworthy, this particular occurrence was. Thursday’s contest marked the first time the CBJ had been held scoreless in the first period in a month: a span that lasted 13 games.
The Blue Jackets made up for it (and then some) in the second period. Within a span of 4:43, the CBJ provided just about all the scoring the Nationwide Arena faithful would see on the evening.
It all started 59 seconds into the second when Artemi Panarin picked off a pass in the neutral zone, skated in on Luongo with Cam Atkinson, then dished it to his linemate who deposited it in the back of the net to make it 1-0.
At the 3:20 mark of the second period, Sonny Milano sprinted off the bench, took a pass from Matt Calvert along the boards and beat Luongo to make it 2-0.
The onslaught continued when Seth Jones, who missed the previous three games with an upper body injury, scored a power-play goal 10 seconds into the CBJ man advantage to put the home team up 3-0 just 5:42 into the second period.
Head coach John Tortorella called the performance one of his team’s “most complete games” of the season. To that point, it wasn’t only the offense that shined—Sergei Bobrovsky was also spectacular on Thursday night, stopping all 33 shots the Panthers sent on net to record his fifth shutout of the season.
With just over two minutes left in the third period, Thomas Vanek buried an empty-net goal to secure the 4-0 CBJ victory.
While all the talk by the media after the game was about the 10-game winning streak, Tortorella said the streak isn’t really on his team’s mind:
It’s a situation where seven, eight teams in the National Hockey League, nine teams, are trying to get in in both conferences here, and we’re one of them. So that far outweighs any type of thinking about ‘streak’. It’s a good time to be winning games, obviously, to put us back in the picture, to give us a chance, but that’s all we’re thinking about.
The Jackets put up a steady, 60-minute performance against a team desperate for points on Thursday night; indicated by their 11 shots in all three periods. They’ll go for their 11th straight win on Saturday night in Columbus as they take on the St. Louis Blues, who like the Panthers, are a desperate team on the wrong side of the cut line—this time over in the Western Conference.