The Florida Panthers have been a much better team away from home than in Sunrise lately, only Saturday night, they looked right comfortable in familiar environs.
With three goals between the midway point of the second and early in the third, Florida got back on track at BB&T Center with a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Since Nov. 26, the Blue Jackets have just five losses; two of them have come in Sunrise to the Panthers to two different coaches.
Florida’s final victory in the Gerard Gallant era came over the Blue Jackets – with Columbus rattling off 16 consecutive wins to follow.
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The Panthers take off for western Canada on Sunday and kicks off a four-game road trip Tuesday in Calgary.
Florida has won its past four road games yet came into Saturday with losses in three of four at home. In those losses, the Panthers were outscored 13-3.
“We’re not thinking about Calgary,” new coach Tom Rowe said before the game. “We need two points against Columbus.”
The Panthers didn’t get off to a slow start as has been the case of late as Shawn Thornton scored his first goal since December 20, 2015, by hammering home a slick pass from Aaron Ekblad 8:22 into the game.
Florida, which had been outscored 13-3 in its past three home losses to Winnipeg, Boston and the Islanders, watched the Blue Jackets bounce right back and score a pair of quick goals to take a 2-1 lead into the first break.
The Panthers then got two quick goals of their own midway through the second period to grab the lead back.
Florida tied the score on Vincent Trocheck’s 14th of the year, an strange shot down the goal line that found its way home through the skates of Joonas Korpisalo.
Moments later, Jonathan Marchessault picked off the puck, worked his way through the slot, got Korpisalo to commit and fired a shot underneath him.
The goal was Marchessault’s 13th of the season.
Early in the third, Florida built a two-goal cushion when Jaromir Jagr got his first goal since New Years Eve by jamming a puck though while in the middle of a scrum in front of Korpisalo.
VIOLAS KEEPING CATS
Doug Cifu and Matthew Caldwell’s roles with the Panthers may be expanded a bit in the coming weeks as team owner Vinnie Viola goes through his confirmation process after being Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of the Army.
Viola’s confirmation hearing isn’t expected until next months, weeks after Trump’s inauguration.
The Panthers not only expect their boss to be approved by Congress, but expect a smooth transition on their end once he is.
Not only with the Viola family still retain ownership in the team but Cifu will take Viola’s title as chairman and team governor.
“First off, this is going to be great for our country because Vinnie is going to be an awesome Secretary of the Army," Cifu said at the team’s third annual social media meetup at the arena called ‘PanthersPalooza.’
"There won’t be many changes, just administrative stuff. I’ll become chairman and governor which means I’ll have to go to more meetings and stuff."
▪ Seth Griffith’s was out of the lineup Saturday. On Friday, he joined Florida’s top line of Trocheck and Jagr after missing four games with a concussion.
Denis Malgin was back in the lineup after sitting out Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Islanders centering Thornton and Paul Thompson on the fourth line. Jared McCann replaced Griffith with Trocheck and Jagr
"I wanted to get Malgin back in and I thought McCann played really well," Rowe said.
▪ Cifu reiterated the Panthers would not make another coaching change this season after firing Gallant and replacing him on an interim basis with GM Rowe.
It’s well believed Rowe would like to keep the job on a permanent basis.
"Tommy’s coaching right now," Cifu said, "we’ll see how that shakes out at the end of the season."