The Panthers’ special teams have been problematic all season. On Saturday, it was ridiculous how bad things got.
Florida surrendered three power-play goals before the Blue Jackets scored a short-handed one for good measure in a 6-3 victory over the Panthers at Nationwide Arena.
The Panthers, last in the league in both power play and penalty kill percentages, have lost eight of 10 dating to Jan. 24.
Florida’s penalty kill has been successful once in six tries since the Olympic break; the power play is an anemic 1 for 10. Columbus’ final two goals of the game were scored into an empty net.
“Special teams stink,” coach Peter Horachek said afterward “Those guys aren’t taking responsibility for the penalty killing. That was not very good. The power play, to give up a short-handed goal in that situation … there has to be some sense of desperate play.”
The team left the Ohio capital soon after Saturday’s loss and flew to Long Island. The Panthers visit the New York Islanders — who were embarrassed 6-1 at home by the Devils on Saturday — on Sunday afternoon before wrapping up this three-game trip Tuesday in Boston.
“They beat us on special teams,” said Nick Bjugstad, who tied the score at 2 in the second period. “We had a good fight back, and it was a close one. We had our chances, but we need a better start.”
Florida fell behind 2-0 as the Jackets scored on consecutive power plays before Shawn Matthias picked off an errant pass deep in the Columbus zone, walked in on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and roofed a shot with 6:10 left in the first.
Bjugstad tied the score at 2 less than seven minutes into the second, backhanding a shot past Bobrovsky for his 14th goal of the season.
Florida’s Erik Gudbranson got called for cross checking midway through the second, and that meant bad news for the Panthers. Florida, which allowed Washington to go 2 for 2 on the power play on Thursday, watched David Savard make it 3 for 3 for the Blue Jackets as he scored with a second left in Columbus’ third power-play attempt.
“We didn’t play well,” Brad Boyes said. “I thought we were turning the corner with the power play in the last game. But this is a broken record. It’s killing us.”
The Panthers wouldn’t be behind for long though, as 40 seconds later Tom Gilbert’s long shot clipped Sean Bergenheim camped down low, and the puck somehow found its way past Bobrovsky.
Florida tried to take its first lead of the game late in the third when Derek MacKenzie popped Dmitry Kulikov with his stick. Instead, Artem Anisimov bulled Jonathan Huberdeau in the corner and took the puck away from him.
Anisimov spun and took the puck directly to the net, beating Scott Clemmensen with 10 seconds left before the second intermission.
“There are individuals who let everyone else down,” Horachek said, not naming Huberdeau specifically.
Boyes is one of Florida’s top trading chips as the NHL deadline approaches.
On Saturday, Boyes said he would like to stay with the Panthers, and he confirmed that his agent has been in talks with general manager Dale Tallon about a new contract.
Boyes, who got a one-year deal from the Panthers after a training-camp tryout, leads Florida in goals (17) and points (28). Tallon didn’t travel to Columbus and apparently is working back in South Florida.
“I would like to stay,” Boyes said. “There have been talks back and forth. We’ll see what happens.”
Defenseman Mike Weaver, also a pending free agent, could be moved by Wednesday as well. Weaver was scratched from Saturday’s lineup, not because a deal was in the works but because Horachek didn’t like Weaver’s play on Thursday.
“Everyone has to be accountable in certain situations,” Horachek said. “We have to make decisions each night.”