The Easter Bunny Brings a 6th Straight Victory! Florida Panthers Game Recap — Game 39 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets:

CBJ: 0 | FLA: 3 FINAL

The Panthers and goalie Chris Driedger gave Panthers fans everywhere the best Easter present they could have asked for. A 3–0 shutout win for their sixth victory in a row, and a victory that propelled them into sole possession of not just first in the Central Division but first in the NHL standings altogether. It was the second game of a back-to-back series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, with the Panthers winning 5–2 in last night’s game. The Blue Jackets would elect to go with Joonas Korpisalo in net against the Panthers today.

The first period today closely resembled the first period between these teams last night, as both sides were getting solid chances yet neither could get a puck past the goaltenders. There wasn’t nearly the same amount of shot volume in today’s game, as Florida would out-shoot Columbus 11–8 in the period, yet the teams would take the same 0–0 score into the first intermission.

As they did in last night’s victory, Florida would take over from the second period onward, and the domination would start early. Panthers Captain Aleksander Barkov would pot his 14th goal of the season at 1:52 in the second period to pull Florida ahead 1–0. Assists on the goal would come from Patric Hornqvist (15) and Mackenzie Weegar (19). It would be Barkov’s first goal since returning to the lineup on Saturday after missing six games due to a lower body injury.

(Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Aleksander Barkov returns to form as he scores his 14th goal of the season to give the Panthers a 1–0 lead. Assisted by Hornqvist (15) and Weegar (19).

The Panthers would continue to put a ton of pressure on the Blue Jackets and Korpisalo from this point on, however they would be unable to break through again during the second period. They would take the 1–0 lead from Barkov into the second intermission.

The third period was more of the same showing from the Panthers. Led by Barkov they were controlling puck possession very effectively, and they were making sure Columbus wasn’t getting any high danger chances against Chris Driedger. Frank Vatrano would intercept an errant pass from the Blue Jackets to skate in and put a beautiful snap-shot past Korpisalo eight minutes into the final period. It would be Vatrano’s 13th goal of the season, and he now has a goal in each of the last three games. The goal would be unassisted.

(Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Frank Vatrano intercepts a Blue Jackets pass to skate in alone on Joonas Korpisalo and score his 13th goal of the season.

The Blue Jackets would look deflated from this point onward, and it would continue to get worse for them as a little over 4 minutes later Gustav Forsling would put a beautiful snap-shot of his own past Korpisalo to bring the score to 3–0 in favor of the Panthers. It would be Forsling’s third goal of the season, assisted by Aleksander Barkov (26) and Mackenzie Weegar (20, 2nd of the game).

Columbus would get a Power Play opportunity late in the game that allowed them to pull their goalie in favor of an extra attacker for a 6-on-4 advantage. They were unable to solve Chris Driedger, and the Panthers would hang on to shutout the Blue Jackets for their 26th victory of the season. The victory not only gave the Panthers sole possession of first place in the Central Division, but it propelled them to first place in the entire NHL. Granted some teams behind them still have a game or two in hand, but for the time being the Panthers are the top team in the league.

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Three Stars from tonight’s game:

  1. Chris Driedger, G (FLA): 32 saves on 32 shots, Shutout, W
  2. Aleksander Barkov, C (FLA): 1 goal (GWG), 1 assist
  3. Noel Acciari, C (FLA): Great PK shifts, 2 shot blocks, 54% faceoffs

The Panthers will now begin a tough two-week long road-trip that will take them to face Carolina, Dallas, and Tampa. Tampa and Carolina are Florida’s direct competitors for first place in the Central, so getting victories on those two teams especially will be very important. The Panthers will be back in action on Tuesday night in Carolina against the Hurricanes. That game will begin at 7 p.m. ET.

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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.