BLUE JACKETS 3, PANTHERS 2 (SO)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – In his advance of Tuesday's game, one local scribe used the term “March Meaningless” to describe the matchup of two teams going nowhere and running out the schedule.
The game actually lived up to that billing for much of the night.
Yet in the third period, the intensity picked up and two teams playing for nothing seemed to allow pride to take over. The hits picked up, shots too. The Panthers, heading for an early vacation for an NHL record 10th straight season, tied the score in the third before falling 3-2 in a shootout.
The loss was Florida's sixth straight as the team went winless in its season-long five-game road trip.
The Blue Jackets, playing in front of a mostly empty Nationwide Arena, had lost six straight shootouts before scoring on 1-of-3 shooting on Tuesday. Florida was 0-for-3 in the shootout as the Panthers are now 4-7 in such situations.
“We looked like we were playing our fifth game in seven nights there in the first,'' Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought in the second and third that we were the better team. We had more shots, more chances.''
Columbus had ample opportunity to put the Panthers away early in the game, with the Blue Jackets swarming goalie Scott Clemmensen and getting plenty of good looks at the net. Two shots bounced off the cage and two more deflected off Clemmensen's mask in the opening frame, yet the only goal Columbus getting coming from Scottie Upshall as he rifled a shot over Clemmensen's shoulder from 20 feet away 7:06 into the period.
“You just keep battling. They came out with a lot of speed and we were a little slow to match it,'' said Clemmensen, who stopped 30 of 32 shots faced. “We did a pretty good job of weathering the storm. They were a few steps ahead of us early.''
The Panthers ended up tying the score in the second as David Booth pushed a loose puck past Steve Mason on a power play chance. The goal gave Booth the team lead as it was his 22nd of the season. Booth had a career-high 31 goals in 2008-09, tied his second best goal output of his career with the goal. One more eclipses the 22 he scored in his first full season with Florida in 2007-08.
The game continued to trudge on with the Jackets retaking the lead with 1:02 left in the second as Antoine Vermette – who tied the game late in the third period when Florida lost to the Jackets in overtime earlier this season – banged in a rebound after the Panthers failed to get the puck out of their zone.
Florida seemed to get new life in the third with Evgeny Dadonov beating Mason with a sweet wraparound move 7:31 into the period. The Panthers took 12 shots at Mason in the third but couldn't find that elusive third goal and the game went into overtime. Florida was forced to kill off a penalty in the final minute of the third and the opening minute of overtime. Columbus only managed one shot in that session, however.
PLANTE, WILSON RETURN
The Panthers shuttle to their AHL affiliate (for the next few weeks) in Rochester, N.Y., was in action again on Monday as goalie Tyler Plante and defenseman Clay Wilson were recalled from the minors.
Plante, who has yet to make his NHL debut despite being called up a few times, backed up Clemmensen as Tomas Vokoun was out with tightness in his back. Vokoun had back soreness last year, playing his final game on April 6 before shutting it down for the season.
Vokoun said Tuesday night that this was a different condition as he “was rammed” by a Pittsburgh player early in the third period on Sunday. It's not known how long Vokoun will be out.
Wilson was needed because Alexander Sulzer suffered a groin/hip injury in the Pittsburgh game. DeBoer didn't sound optimistic that Sulzer would be back in the coming days. Keaton Ellerby also was banged up in that game but practiced and played Tuesday.
-- The Panthers played without center Marty Reasoner for the final 40-plus minutes after he left the game upon being struck in the groin area with a puck. How painful was that?
“Real painful,'' DeBoer joked while cringing. “That's real pain.''
Florida Panthers Comeback, Fall Short in Shootout Again ... Blue Jackets Beat Panthers 3-2 ... Cats Go 0-3-2 on Roady
BLUE JACKETS 3, PANTHERS 2 (SO)