SUNRISE — If anyone thought the Panthers would be lulled into a trap game by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night, it did not take long for Florida to put them to rest.
The Panthers came out Saturday as if it were an extension of Friday night.
Bad news for the Blue Jackets.
Florida, which is quickly gaining attention across the NHL for its recent play, kept the good times rolling against Columbus on Saturday, scoring four times in the opening period before rolling to a 9-2 win at FLA Live Arena.
The Panthers have now won seven consecutive home games and eight of their past nine overall.
In those seven home games, Florida has steamrolled the competition, outscoring its seven opponents 45-15.
The average score of these past seven games would be around 6-2.
Since Christmas, Florida has scored nine goals in a single game twice — and scored seven on Friday against Dallas.
The Panthers (21-3 at home) now take off for the longest road trip — to date — of the season as they head to western Canada on Sunday morning.
Florida will leave Sunrise far behind as it has plans to play in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Seattle and Winnipeg before returning home.
The game the Panthers are playing, however, translates anywhere.
The Panthers are coming at teams in waves with — as every player will tell you — all four lines giving them a chance to score off every shift.
On Saturday, Columbus rolled out Elvis Merzlikins in net and the presumed long-term replacement for Sergei Bobrovsky did not last long.
Carter Verhaeghe got things rolling 46 seconds into the game. Just over two minutes in and Anthony Duclair made it 2-0.
The Panthers were off to the races.
With 6:32 left in the opening period, the Panthers had a 4-0 lead courtesy of goals from MacKenzie Weegar and another from Verhaeghe.
This game was as good as cooked.
Joonas Korpisalo, Bobrovsky’s friend and former backup, came in midway through the first and gallantly pushed aside some shots and the score remained 4-0 for a little while longer.
But not much.
Jonathan Huberdeau, who had assists on two of the first goals, got a goal of his own 2:02 into the period. Anton Lundell then made it 6-0 at 12:10 of the second.
Bobrovsky, who came close to getting his first shutout since 2019 in a 7-1 win over Dallas on Friday night, saw his quest for one against what’s left of his former team end early in the third when Gustav Nyquist scored off a Max Domi rebound.
No matter. The Panthers quickly got that goal right back on Sam Bennett’s sixth goal in his past four games.
Florida would then get a pair of goals from Lundell and Patric Hornqvist to send up the loudest “We Want 10” chants since it midway through the first.
Although Columbus got its second goal with 9:10 remaining, no one even seemed to notice.
Florida did not get that elusive 10th goal to tie the franchise record. Weegar probably had the best shot at it, missing on a breakaway after coming out of the penalty box with 4:16.
The franchise record of 10 goals scored in 1997 against Boston will live to see another day.
That’s not to say what the Panthers have been doing isn’t impressive.
Far, far from it.
Since returning from an extended holiday break due to Covid, the Panthers have gone 8-0-1 and are outscoring their opponents — not counting the shootout goal Dallas was credited —54-23.
That is an average of six goals per night.
For once, the Panthers are a team heading out on a road trip people actually really, really want to see.
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. MacKenzie Weegar, Florida
2. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida
3. Anton Lundell, Florida