Panthers-Blue Jackets Preview
The Columbus Blue Jackets ended their brief losing streak with a strong offensive performance.
Another big goal tally could be on the way against the Florida Panthers, who continue to struggle defensively.
Columbus looks for its sixth straight win in the series against Florida on Saturday night.
The Blue Jackets (27-23-4) come off a 5-2 home victory over Washington on Thursday, nearly matching the six they had totaled during a three-game skid. Before that, they had scored three or more goals in every contest over an eight-game winning streak.
Ryan Johansen scored twice, while Cam Atkinson recorded a goal and an assist for the second straight contest after going four games without a point.
Johansen said "we lost some of our discipline" in the third period when the Blue Jackets were charged with four penalties, but Sergei Bobrovsky was strong in goal, making 20 of his 30 saves in the final 20 minutes. Columbus’ defense also limited Alex Ovechkin to a season low-matching two shots.
"It was a huge win for the guys," coach Todd Richards said. "We challenged them this afternoon, (saying we were) needing more from individuals. We got that tonight."
The Panthers (21-26-7) fell for the third time in four games with Thursday’s 6-3 setback in Toronto despite outshooting the Maple Leafs 38-32.
Sean Bergenheim and Nick Bjugstad each scored in the game’s first 13:50 to give them a 2-0 advantage, but they surrendered five consecutive goals.
"When a team comes out after they’ve lost the period, they’re probably getting some bad words from the coach," said Dmitry Kulikov, who scored for the second straight contest with Florida’s final goal. Four of his six goals this season have come in his last seven games after he had scored just twice over his first 46.
"We knew they were going to come out strong in the second period and we didn’t handle it," he said.
Florida, which was coming off a 6-2 loss to Boston on Tuesday, received another lackluster goaltending performance as Scott Clemmensen made 26 stops. He and Tim Thomas have combined for a 4.75 goals-against average and .852 save percentage over the last four games. They posted a 2.09 GAA during the team’s previous 6-3-2 stretch.
"There’s too many goals scored against us, that’s for sure," interim coach Peter Horachek told the team’s website. "We’ve got to move forward here. We’ve got to be able to get better in a lot of little areas where we’re doing really well. We had the chances in the first period 8-to-1 and they scored on it."
Bergenheim is riding a five-game point streak, while Bjugstad has six points over his last seven road games.
The Panthers have allowed six power-play goals on 21 chances over their last five games after holding opponents scoreless on 26 opportunities in their previous 10 contests. Their 76.9 penalty-kill percentage is among the worst in the NHL. Columbus, though, is coming off an 0-for-7 power-play performance versus Washington.
Florida has just one goal on 32 power-play opportunities over its last 10 road games.
These clubs haven’t met since a 4-1 home win for Columbus on March 30, 2012. Nikita Nikitin and R.J. Umberger each scored two goals apiece.