Thursday afternoon, ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ matchup against the Florida Panthers later in the evening, it became known that the club would be without two of their best players: Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. With a number of players under the weather, Thursday could have been the perfect storm of CBJ illness facing a scorching hot Panthers team.
Things didn’t exactly get off to the start the Jackets wanted to see. Nick Bjugstad deflected a puck past backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo just 1:44 into the game to put the visitors on top early. Aaron Eklbad added another goal, this one of the power-play variety, just over five minutes later to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead, a score that would stand to the first intermission.
The Blue Jackets were able to flip momentum early on in the second period.
Just 28 seconds in, Cam Atkinson took a pass from Alexander Wennberg in a two-on-one shorthanded opportunity and beat Roberto Luongo to get the CBJ on the board.
At the 3:36 mark of the second period, Brandon Dubinsky chopped a puck past Luongo to tie the game up, then 6:16 into the period Pierre-Luc Dubois found the back of the net to give the Jackets a 3-2 lead.
Even John Tortorella succumbed to the bug going through the CBJ dressing room, meaning assistant coach Brad Shaw handled the postgame press conference. Regarding the slow start, and the team’s response in the second period, Shaw said:
We just looked a little behind the play in the first period…The shorthanded goal seemed to give us some life, and the crowd got into it, and before you know it, we’re up 3-2.
Korpisalo, who found out earlier in the afternoon that he’d get the nod in net, made big saves all evening long. After watching his teammate stop 40 out of 43 shots, Brandon Dubinsky had this to say about Korpisalo’s performance, including a key sequence in the second period:
He got the bench going…he got the crowd going…he made some big saves for us…and kept it where it needed to be when we got down.
The Panthers added a second power play goal with 6:48 left in the second period, tying the game up as the two teams ultimately headed into the final 20 minutes. The Blue Jackets, however, kept their foot on the gas.
At the 4:01 mark of the third period, Markus Hannikainen registered his first goal of the year to give the CBJ a 4-3 lead. Later in the period, Anthony Duclair and Josh Anderson both got sprung behind the defense and buried breakaways to put the Jackets up 6-3. Then with an empty net and 5:09 left in the game, Boone Jenner added a goal to secure the 7-3 CBJ victory.
After the game, Brad Shaw commented on how the absence of a couple of their best players affected the team, saying:
We talked about how it was good for our team, where guys have to step up in different roles and different responsibilities.
Adversity’s good, especially when you come out on the good end of the result, but it sure didn’t look that good in the first 20 minutes.
The Blue Jackets showed off their offensive depth on Thursday night, scoring seven goals by seven different players, including all four of their top goal scorers. The team won’t have a ton of time to get healthy before their next game Saturday night in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes. After Thursday’s result, however, that may not matter.