Don’t Call it a Comeback? Florida Panthers Game Recap — Game 26 @ Columbus Blue Jackets:

Florida Panthers vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Cardiac Cats are back at it once again. The Panthers continue to go into games with a plan of disappointing their fanbase early on by falling behind, only to come roaring back towards crunch time. For the feint of heart this Panthers team is not a recommended watch, but it is so fun to witness them perform like this.

The Panthers have made a habit of falling behind in games, and requiring a comeback to gain any points in the standings. Tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was no different. The first period was relatively standard. Both teams were getting decent chances, however Bobrovsky for Florida and Merzlikins for Columbus were making the necessary saves to keep each team off the score-sheet. The Panthers went into the first intermission tied at zero with Columbus.

The Blue Jackets would come out of the first intermission determined to get one past Bobrovsky. There was some back and forth play for the first few minutes, and then Columbus would open the scoring at six minutes into the second period —Oliver Bjorkstrand would pot his ninth goal of the season on assists by Max Domi and Jack Roslovic. The press would continue from the Blue Jackets at this stage of the period, and their efforts were rewarded when Bjorkstrand would score his second goal of the game (10th of the season), this time with assists coming from Riley Nash and Patrik Laine. The Panthers found themselves down 2–0 to Columbus about halfway through the game, an all-too-familiar spot this team has put themselves into this season. A shard of hope would come the Panthers way at 16:50 into the second period, as Hornqvist would score his team-leading 11th goal of the season on a deflection from Gustav Forsling and a secondary assist from Carter Verhaeghe. The Panthers would go into the second intermission down 2–1 to Columbus, needing a spark in the third period to secure points in this game.

VIA Jamie Sabau/NHLI — Getty Images

Hornqvist great deflection goal (11) with assists from Forsling (2) and Verhaeghe (9)

The Panthers would start the third period flat-footed as Columbus was pressing to ensure the Panthers would not come back in this game. Alex Wennberg for Florida would take a Tripping penalty early on at 1:27 into the period to put Columbus on a Power Play. Columbus would score on the Power Play from who else? Patrik Laine would score on a one-timer, his 9th of the season, on assists from Zach Werenski and Cam Atkinson. The Panthers were now down 3–1 with 16:37 remaining in the game. Before the Panthers could even have a chance to re-group, Columbus’s Max Domi would get a squeaker past Bobrovsky 1:20 later, his 4th goal of the season, on an assist from Oliver Bjorkstrand. The Panthers were now quickly down 4–1 in the game with 15:17 remaining. All hope was looking lost from this point.

Florida Panthers teams of old would have sunken their heads, accepted the loss, and tried to re-group and play better for the next game. Not this Panthers team however. One minute and 53 seconds after Domi put the Blue Jackets up 4–1 Ryan Lomberg would get his first career NHL goal, and what a beauty it was. The puck deflected off of Columbus netminder Elvis Merzlikins into the air, and Lomberg with terrific hand-eye coordination batted the puck out of the air like a baseball player and into the open net. Noel Acciari and Radko Gudas would be credited with assists on this goal.

VIA Ben Jackson/NHLI — Getty Images

Lomberg’s first career NHL goal (1) with assists from Acciari (2) and Gudas (4)

Suddenly Florida was down just two goals again with 13:26 remaining in the game. The Panthers suddenly had life, and pressed against Columbus to continue the comeback. After a hard fought 6 minutes following the Lomberg goal, Owen Tippett of Florida would be rewarded with his third goal of the season, a beautiful snap-shot to the far post-and-in past Merzlikins at 12:21 of the period. Mackenzie Weegar and Mason Marchment would be credited with assists on Tippett’s goal.

Tippett’s nasty snap-shot (3rd of the season) with assists from Weegar (12) and Marchment (4)

Florida was now within one goal of tying up the hockey game. Shortly after Tippett’s goal brought the Panthers within one goal of tying the game, Florida would continue their offensive pressure and forced Columbus’s Michael Del Zotto to take an interference penalty against Eetu Luostarinen. Florida’s Power Play had been struggling as of late, but they have never needed a Power Play goal more desperately than they needed one here. After some dazzling puck movement, Florida would be rewarded on the Power Play, a one-timer from Captain Aleksander Barkov (his 9th of the season) with assists coming from Keith Yandle and Jonathan Huberdeau. The Panthers have done it. They battled back from being down 4–1, and scored three unanswered goals to tie the game at 4–4 late in the third period. The heart attacks have been administered. There would be some back-and-forth play to close out the third period, but ultimately this game would require 3-on-3 overtime to decide a winner.

VIA Jamie Sabau/NHLI — Getty Images

Barkov (9) on the Power Play to tie the game at 4–4. Assists coming from Yandle (14) and Huberdeau (21)

With the ice seemingly tilted in the Panthers favor during the overtime period, Florida would possess the puck nearly the entire time since it was dropped. Florida would ultimately complete the comeback, as speedy Frank Vatrano would score on a rebound to win the game for Florida 5–4 in overtime. Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad would be credited with assists on the overtime winner.

VIA Jamie Sabau/NHLI — Getty Images

Vatrano’s Overtime Game Winning Goal (9) with assists from Ekblad (10) and Huberdeau (22)

Florida takes all 4 possible points in their two game series against Columbus to move to 38 points, and are now tied for second in the division with their in-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning. Florida will play again at home on Saturday the 13th vs. the surprising Chicago Blackhawks. That game will start at 7 pm EST.

The Three Stars of the game were:

  1. Frank Vatrano (FLA): GWG in OT
  2. Max Domi (CBJ): 1 goal, 1 assist

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Joseph London

South Florida sports fan. Mostly cover the Florida Panthers NHL team, but also scattered stories about the Dolphins, Heat, and Marlins! Thank you for reading.