Halfway through the first period, the Florida Panthers had already scored twice on the Columbus Blue Jackets and appeared on track for their sixth straight win.
No one, however, told Columbus.
The Blue Jackets scored three unanswered goals in the second period and added four more in the third to top the Panthers 7-3 Thursday at Nationwide Arena, stopping the Panther’s win streak at five games.
And Columbus, which improved to 11-6-2, did it without starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, points-leader Artemi Panarin and forward Riley Nash, all down sick.
The game marked goalie Roberto Luongo’s first losing effort since Nov. 2, and the first time this season he has given up more than two goals, as the Panthers fell to 7-6-3.
“They are disappointed in themselves and so am I,” Panthers assistant coach Jack Capuano said. “No disrespect to Columbus, they played well and didn’t stop coming all night, but we shot ourselves in the foot.
“We just didn’t have it tonight….We had an opportunity, but it slipped away.”
Facing Blue Jackets backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo, the Panthers struck early when Nick Bjugstad deflected a blue-line shot by Mike Matheson at 1:44 for his fourth goal of the season. Denis Malgin earned the assist.
<FZ,1,0,14>Just over five minutes later Aaron Ekblad made it 2-0 Panthers, with a power play goal at 6:45, tipping a Mike Hoffman cross-ice pass past Korpisalo’s right pad.
The assist, Hoffman’s sixth of the past five games, gave him the franchise record of 14 straight games with a point, eclipsing the old mark set by Pavel Bure in the 1999-2000 season. He has 15 points (seven goals and eight assists) during the streak.
Matheson picked up an assist, his second on the night.
Columbus, however, came to life, scoring three unanswered goals in the first 6:16 of the second period.
Cam Atkinson got the streak started just 28 seconds into the period with his ninth goal of the season, whipping a short-hander past Luongo off a rolling pass from Alexander Wennberg. Brandon Dubinsky then pulled Columbus even at 3:46 when he directed a Zach Werenski shot between the legs of Luongo for his second goal of the season, as Wennberg earned the second assist.
The Blue Jackets barrage continued when Luongo got beat playing the puck against a breakaway Anthony Duclair, as Pierre-Luc Dubois’ rebound from the circle at 6:16. Atkinson picked up the other assist on DuClair’s ninth goal of the season and 100th career point.
“We were good in the first period, but we let up the gas, and they came on in the second and got a couple on us,” Hoffman said. “We were never able to recover from that point.”
The Panthers fought back at 13:12 of the second, as Keith Yandle tied the game 3-3 with his fourth goal of the season, a shot from just inside the blue line that snuck through Korpisalo’s five hole at 13:12. Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau assisted.
But the third period was all Columbus, with goals from Markus Hannikainen, DuClair, Josh Anderson and an empty netter by Boone Jenner.
The Panthers won’t have much time to dwell on the loss, as they are in the midst of a 24-day stretch where they will play 14 games, including this six-game, 11-day road trip. They next face the New York Rangers Saturday.
“This is a game for me as a coach, we have to learn from it and we have to move on,” Capuano said.
“We have to concentrate on the Rangers next game, get back in the win column and forget about this. We didn’t do the job in the second and third. We got what we deserved.”