Florida Extends Point Streak to Four Games! Florida Panthers Game Recap — Game 46 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets:
The Panthers returned to the BB&T Center on Monday night to play their first game at home in a couple of weeks. They would face a Columbus Blue Jackets that is truly in a downward spiral, losers of their past couple of games. The Blue Jackets would start Elvis Merzlikins in net, while Florida would elect to start Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes.
It felt like the Blue Jackets came out with a true purpose for the first 10 minutes of the first period. Columbus was controlling play by keeping puck possession, and applying offensive pressure on Florida’s defense. Florida would capitalize on a key mistake from Columbus, as Frank Vatrano would jump on a puck that was turned over in front of the Blue Jackets’ net. Vatrano would bury the puck past Merzlikins for his 16th goal of the season. The goal would be unassisted.
Florida would continue to apply pressure against Columbus for the remainder of the first period, but would be unable to put another puck past Merzlikins. They would carry the 1–0 lead into the first intermission.
Florida would come out firing in the second period. They would be granted a 3-on-2 opportunity during an odd-man rush less than a minute into the period, and Sam Bennett would bury his first goal since being acquired by the Panthers at the trade deadline. It would be Bennett’s fifth goal of the season, assisted by Jonathan Huberdeau (31) and Anthony Duclair (14).
Sam Bennett has been a fantastic addition to this Panthers lineup so far, as he now has two assists and a goal for three points through his first two games in Florida. Florida would take an early 2–0 lead a minute into the second period, and some back-and-forth play would commence from then. A little more than halfway through the second period Anthony Duclair would take a hit up high from Columbus’ Gavin Bayreuther. No penalty was initially called on the play, however Sam Bennett would stick up for Duclair and receive a 10 minute misconduct penalty for instigating and a five minute major penalty for fighting Bayreuther. Needless to say, Bennett is making a fantastic first impression on his teammates and Panthers fans everywhere. Back to the game; shortly after the fighting major penalties Columbus would cut the Panthers’ lead in half. Oliver Bjorkstrand would score his 15th goal of the season at 13:22, assisted by Cam Atkinson (16) and Seth Jones (19). Less than a minute later, Florida would increase the lead again, this time it would be Radko Gudas scoring a one-timer for his second goal of the season. The goal was assisted by Anthony Duclair (15) and Gustav Forsling (8).
Florida would take the 3–1 lead into the second intermission. This season Florida is 20–1–1 in games where they lead going into the third period. It’s a truly remarkable feat that they’ve been able to close out most games they’ve played with a lead.
Columbus would put a lot of pressure on the Panthers, and would make it extremely difficult to secure this victory. Less than halfway through the period Columbus would cut the Panthers’ lead to a single goal after Zac Delpe would score his second goal of the season at 8:01. The goal was assisted by Eric Robinson (7) and Andrew Peeke (3). Columbus would make it close, and they would attempt to pull the goaltender with about two minutes to go in the period. Florida would secure the victory in the game after Frank Vatrano would score the empty-netter at 18:38 for his second goal of the game, and his 17th of the season. The goal was assisted by Alex Wennberg (10) and Patric Hornqvist (17). The final horn would sound, and Florida would secure the 4–2 victory for their 29th win of the season.
With the victory tonight against Columbus, Florida would pull into a tie for first place in the Central Division with the Carolina Hurricanes with 63 points. Tampa Bay remains very close behind both these teams in third place with 62 points. Carolina and Tampa Bay both still have games-in-hand over the Panthers.
The Three Stars from tonight’s game:
- Frank Vatrano, LW/RW (FLA): 2 goals
- Sam Bennett, C (FLA): 1 goal
- Anthony Duclair, RW (FLA): 2 assists
The Florida Panthers will play this same Columbus Blue Jackets team tomorrow night, Apr. 20th, at the BB&T Center. The game will start at 7 p.m. ET.
According to Florida head coach Joel Quenneville, it is very likely that Panthers’ prospect goaltender Spencer Knight will make his first NHL start. The rookie has high expectations, and I’m definitely excited to see how he performs.