The Columbus Blue Jackets’ penalty-kill unit was outstanding heading into the Olympic break, but that efficiency didn’t carry over when they returned from the layoff.
After losing their first game since the NHL’s three-week hiatus, the Blue Jackets will try to get back on track Saturday when they host the Florida Panthers.
Columbus (29-25-5) allowed only two power-play goals over 30 shorthanded situations entering the break, and none in its final five contests before the Sochi Games. The Blue Jackets gave up 10 total goals to go 3-1-1 in those five games, including a 4-1 win over Florida (22-30-7) on Feb. 1. The Panthers were 0 for 3 with the extra man in that one.
The Blue Jackets didn’t come close to that standard Thursday night at New Jersey, which went 2 for 3 on the power play in a 5-2 victory. It was only the third time in 19 games dating to Jan. 2 that they allowed a team to score twice with the man advantage.
Columbus couldn’t get anything going on its own power play, failing to capitalize on three situations while also allowing a shorthanded goal.
"It’s about being ready, being prepared. We have to be better and learn from this," coach Todd Richards said. "Our next focus now has to be getting ready for Florida."
The Jackets have a good chance to regain their form against the Panthers, who are the worst power play team in the league.
Florida has scored on a mere 9.2 percent of its chances with the advantage – by far the lowest percentage in the NHL – and the team’s league-low 18 power-play goals are eight fewer than Calgary, which is second-to-last in that category.
The Panthers did manage a rare tally on the power play in their return from the break, but they wasted five other chances in a 5-4 loss to Washington on Thursday that was their third straight defeat and sixth in seven games.
Drew Shore scored with the advantage in the third period for Florida, which also got a goal from Brad Boyes in the final 20 minutes to rally from a 4-2 deficit before Alex Ovechkin got the winner for the Capitals.
"We’ve been able to come back in the past this season, come back in the third. But we talk about a 60-minute game," Boyes said. "The resilience is there, but we give teams opportunities. We give them a lot. We gave up power plays, turnovers. If we cut those out, we’re better off."
Tim Thomas allowed all five goals and stopped 27 shots for the Panther after giving up four in a 5-1 loss to Carolina just prior to the break. Thomas also gave up all four goals while making 26 saves in Florida’s loss to Columbus on Feb. 1.
Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was outstanding in that one, stopping 35 shots, and centers Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner each finished with a goal and an assist.
Columbus has won the last six meetings to improve to 9-4 all-time versus Florida, which has not beaten the Blue Jackets since a 5-2 road victory on Nov. 21, 2007.