The Florida Panthers embarked on their first road trip of the season with a stop in Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.
Game one featured another tough outing from Panthers’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. In his first two games, Bobrovsky has given up eight goals, with two of them coming on the first two shots he saw Tuesday night.
The only thing keeping Florida alive was Patric Hornqvist, as his game-tying goal with 2.5 seconds left in regulation forced overtime. And he ended up closing the whole thing on his own by shooting the game-winning goal in the 4-3 shootout.
“It’s always fun to score big goals and help the team win,” Hornqvist, whose four goals are the second-most on the team, said. “That’s my job.”
Round two with Columbus saw Florida once again having to grind to tie the game up late to send it to a shootout. Backup goaltender Chris Driedger got the start in Columbus to possibly stop a few more shots that came his way.
Although he had a decent night between the pipes, saving 29 of 31 shots from the Blue Jackets, he couldn’t contain forward Alexandre Texier in the third round of the shootout, resulting in Columbus’ 3-2 victory and the Panthers’ first loss of the season.
“I thought my first period I was a little all over the place but I came back after the first intermission, took a few breaths, and got back to what I do,” Driedger said. “I’ve been feeling good lately, just trying to keep it simple and give the guys the best chance to win.”
Although the Panthers lost, they didn’t miss out on the opportunity to earn points.
“Never being satisfied is what makes you successful,” assistant captain/defenseman Aaron Ekblad said.
At 3-1, the Panthers are off to an exceptional start. However, it must be recognized that Florida has gone to extra time in three consecutive matches. And all of this extra time could very well tire players out in the long run.
Star of the Series: Carter Verhaeghe (2G, 1A)
Besides Hornqvist, Carter Verhaeghe is one of the newcomers that is truly showing up to play championship-level hockey in South Florida. Paired up with center Aleksander Barkov and winger Anthony Duclair on the top line, Verhaeghe’s speed fits in perfectly with the aggressiveness both Barkov and Duclair play with.
It seemed like Verhaeghe was everywhere at all times, ready to finish a shift strong with either a goal or more pressure that set up for a goal for a teammate.