The Florida Panthers did just about everything they wanted to Sunday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
They dominated time of possession, had a eye-popping 96-38 advantage in shot attempts and peppered a young goalie with 50 shots on goal.
Yet as has been the story time and again this season, the Panthers got beat out in the only statistic that truly matters.
That, of course, is the final score.
Actually scoring goals is the only thing the Blue Jackets did better than the Panthers and, hey, that is the name of the game as Columbus pulled out a 5-3 win.
Florida has now lost its past three and four of the past five.
”There is a lot of things we can be better at,” coach Paul Maurice said. “We have to get some guys to the netfront and score some hard, ugly goals because we’re having a hard time completing the plays around the net. …
“There are plays to be made, pretty plays to score and we’re not getting a handle on those right now. That can’t be your design, can’t be waiting. We were on the right end of the rink, our intensity is fine. We have to stay mentally tough in a tough stretch.”
Florida, again, found itself dominating a first period only to fail to find the finish. Despite outshooting the Jackets 22-4 in the opener, Matthew Tkachuk’s goal eight minutes in was matched by Yegor Chinakhov’s breakaway and the two teams were tied.
We have seen this movie before.
The only time Florida led was when Tkachuk knocked in Gus Forsling’s shot at 7:52 with the Jackets tying the score and taking leads of 2-1 and 3-2 before opening things up in the third.
“It’s the same story,” Nick Cousins said. “The first period, we came out and dominated the shot category and every other statistic. Then, I think we took our foot off the gas and the other team gets its push. It has been like that the whole season. …
“If you look around the league, all the goals are scored from 3-5 feet from the net. We had a lot of zone time but a lot of it was on the perimeter. Teams are doing a good job of boxing us out and blocking shots. We need to get to the net a little more, make it harder on their goalie and score some more.”
Bobrovsky was not great by any means but Columbus certainly took advantage of mistakes made by the Panthers.
Chinakhov’s goal came as a direct result of a weak cross-ice pass from Marc Staal which he picked up and walked in on Bobrovsky at 11:21 of the first.
Columbus’ second goal came on its first power play chance with captain Boone Jenner appearing to knock in a Kent Johnson shot, Aaron Ekblad tying the score by stuffing the puck under the pads of rookie goalie Daniil Tarasov (47 saves) late in the second.
Florida got a power play chance in the opening minute of the third with the chance to take a lead on a team down on itself after getting beat up by Detroit the night before.
Only Sean Kuraly picked up a loose puck, sped up the ice and ended up knocking in a deflected puck past Bobrovsky after he made the initial save.
Florida never tied it again.
Johnny Gaudreau, Tkachuk’s former running buddy in Calgary, made it a two-goal game with a slick shot from the left circle.
Jenner should have had an empty-net goal when he was tugged on by Ekblad with 2:29 left, but he waited and scored on the ensuing power play instead.
Florida got a goal from Colin White in the final minute, but this one was long gone by then.
Now the Panthers have lost their past three games and four of the past five, about to polish off the first quarter of this season with more losses than wins.
Florida knew there would be an adjustment with so many changes to the team and coaching staff, but it knows things need to turn around and quick.
The Boston Bruins, a team which already handled the Panthers once this season, comes to town Wednesday with the best record in the NHL.
”If we were getting outshot every night, getting outchanced there would be concerns,” Maurice said. “We drive lots of play here. There is another level we need to get to and it is hard to get there. We have got to get to the heavy areas.”
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Daniil Tarasov, Columbus (46 saves)
2. Johnny Gaudreau, Columbus (goal, 2 assists)
3. Boone Jenner, Columbus (goal)
PANTHERS ON DECK
BOSTON BRUINS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series: Boston 5, Florida 3 (Oct. 17)
- Last season: Boston won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Boston leads 59-36-6, 6 ties