This has not been a good start for the Florida Panthers.
They lost their season opener to their rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
They lost their Hall of Fame goalie, Roberto Luongo, out four-to-six weeks due to a knee injury.
And, on Thursday, the Panthers lost their home opener, 5-4, to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Panthers, perhaps the best team in the NHL last season from Jan. 30 to the end of the regular campaign, are off to another slow start. In fact, it’s tortoise-slow compared to last year, when the Panthers were 2-1 on this spot in the calendar.
James Reimer, who started in place of Luongo, did not have a strong game. He failed to adequately cover the near post on Columbus’ third goal. But, otherwise, the barrage of Jackets goals could not be fairly blamed solely on Reimer.
Columbus’ first goal, for example, came after two Panthers penalties – holding on Frank Vatrano followed by a tripping call on Mike Matheson -- gave the Jackets a 5-on-3 power play for 90 seconds.
The Jackets’ second goal came after a bad Panthers line change opened the door for an Artemi Panarin break-away.
On the game winner, scored by Cam Atkinson with 2:46 left in the third period, Reimer made the original stop but left a rebound for the Jackets veteran.
Evgenii Dadonov led the Panthers offense with one goal and two assists. Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov added one goal and one assist as part of a strong offensive showing.
In fact, the Panthers scored with less than 11 seconds left in each of the first two periods – by Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad – but it still wasn’t enough.
Eight days after the Washington Capitals started the 2018-2019 NHL season with their home win over the Boston Bruins, the Panthers finally got a chance to play in front of their crowd – and they couldn’t pull off the win despite leading 4-3 heading into the third period.
Only two teams in the NHL have a home opener scheduled later than the Panthers this year, the New Jersey Devils and the Edmonton Oilers, who both opened their seasons in Sweden.
After falling behind 2-0 on Thursday, the Panthers tied the score 2-2 on goals by Dadonov and Barkov. Dadonov’s goal with just 10.6 seconds left in the first period, was set up by a Barkov pass. Barkov’s goal, which came with 6:29 expired in the second period, came only after Dadonov threaded a pass through the legs of a Jackets defender.
Florida took its first lead of the game when Troy Brouwer – who signed as a free agent in the offseason with the hopes of giving the Panthers veteran leadership – scored on his deflection while parked in front of the net. Mark Pysyk earned the assist, and it was Brouwer’s first goal with the Panthers.
Columbus’ Anthony Duclair tied the score a little over three minutes later on his power-play goal. The man-advantage was set up when Atkinson drew a tripping penalty on Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic.
Florida capped the second-period scoring with the goal by Bjugstad, which came with 8.6 seconds left in the second.
That gave Florida a 4-3 lead – its last hurrah of the night.
Columbus’ Boone Jenner tied the score 4-4 just 1:15 into the third period, and Atkinson sent Panthers fans home unhappy.