SUNRISE — For the first time since mid-December, the Florida Panthers lost their second straight game in regulation and suffered just their fifth game at home.
This time, it was a 6-2 loss to a Columbus Blue Jackets team which came in looking for revenge on Thursday.
The Panthers outscored the Blue Jackets 17-6 in their first two meetings, including a 9-2 blowout at FLA Live Arena that saw Florida fans cheering “We want 10!” by the midway point of the first period.
“I’d say it’s probably the most embarrassing one,” Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski told The Columbus Dispatch. “I think when their crowd starts chanting, ‘We want 10,’ and they’re one away, I don’t know if there’s a more embarrassing feeling in hockey to be honest with you.”
The embarrassment got worse for the Blue Jackets after Florida put up eight goals on them in front of their own fans, with Mason Marchment collecting six points in front of the Columbus crowd.
While Werenski did not play in Thursday’s game due to an upper-body injury, the rest of the team certainly came out angry.
“We sort of embarrassed them here one time and scored a bunch of them last time and they were going to check and make life difficult for us,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said.
While MacKenzie Weegar got the scoring started for the Panthers 8:33 into the game, things died down for them offensively from there.
It would be their last goal until the 6:52 mark of the third period and Columbus was able to take advantage of that.
Patrik Laine scored what was the first of three straight Blue Jackets goals off of a MacKenzie Weegar turnover with 4:55 remaining in the first period to give Columbus a lead it would not relinquish.
“I think it was our energy level, I feel like we were not ready at the start,” Jonathan Huberdeau said. “I think we’re usually on the other team right away and they got all over us and we have to be more ready.”
However, Brunette did not think that was what caused his team to stagnate.
“While they’re feeling they lacked a little energy, I did not overly feel that was the issue,” Brunette said.
“We wasted energy being frustrated and not putting energy into working a little harder to get to pucks. I think we were a little late behind everything.”
While Huberdeau made it a 3-2 game with a slick goal early in the third period, Florida came no closer.
Columbus still had the momentum and Cole Sillinger answered back with a goal just under three minutes later to regain the two-goal lead.
Justin Danforth added another goal just 10 seconds later to make it a 5-2 game with 10:03 to go.
“Tons of credit to them, they played a really fast, in your face, no room type of game,” Brunette said.
“That’s two teams in a row that did that to us at home and we haven’t adjusted the way we would like to.”
Brunette decided to pull Jonas Johansson for the extra attacker with 8:30 to go, and it paid off with Sam Bennett scoring to make it a 5-3 game.
Spoiler alert, it was too little too late.
Oliver Bjorkstrand found the empty net 20 seconds after Bennett scored to put the game on ice.
Johansson, who made his first start as a Panther after being claimed off of waivers in December, allowed five goals on 27 shots.
“It’s hard, he hasn’t played in a long time,” Brunette said. “He wasn’t the problem.”