SUNRISE — Monday night looked like a good night for the Florida Panthers to finally have an easy night what with the Columbus Blue Jackets in town.
After all, the Panthers had outscored Columbus 11-0 in their final two meetings of last season and built a quick 3-0 lead on Monday.
Forget easy. By the third, the Panthers were happy to settle for overtime where Carter Verhagehe won it 1:26 in.
Columbus’ Alexandre Texier gave the Jackets a 4-3 lead at 12:30 of the third before Nick Cousins forced OT by scoring with 56.4 seconds left in regulation.
The Panthers went from completely and utterly dominating the visiting Jackets to fighting for anything replacement goalie Spencer Martin would allow.
And he gave them nothing until Cousins finally solved him off a 5-on-4 turnover deep in the zone.
It was a reminder of a Florida loss in Columbus last Nov. 20.
Florida dominated that one as well — only ended up on the losing end.
This time, the Panthers found a way.
On Monday, the Panthers took a 2-0 lead by scoring on their first two shots on goal as Ryan Lomberg and Gus Forsling got the fans on their feet early.
Sasha Barkov made it 3-0 at 6:09 of the first period as Columbus pulled goalie Elvis Merzlikins after Florida held an 11-1 shot advantage.
It eventually got to 21-1 before Erik Gudbranson — Florida’s top pick in 2010 — sent No. 2 toward Sergei Bobrovsky. The Florida goalie did not handle it cleanly, the rebound landed on Sean Kuraly’s stick and suddenly it was 3-1.
By the intermission, it was 3-2 as Boone Jenner drove in and beat Bobrovsky on Columbus’ sixth shot of the night.
Florida came hard after Martin to open the second — only a power play goal from Kirill Marchenko tied the score at 3 midway through the second.
It stayed that way until Alexander Texier drove in on Bobrovsky, had his pass attempt deflected in front of the net — only the puck bounced off the cage and he was able to snare his own shot and stuff it in.
A bit of a fluky goal, sure, but the other three were not.
Hey, a win is just that.
No one can argue that.
THE GOALS (and how they happened)
- Panthers 1, Blue Jackets 0 (2:19, 1st): Steven Lorentz drives in on Elvis Merzlikins and shoots with Ryan Lomberg pulling down the rebound and throwing up a wild, odd-angled shot. It appeared to clip the Columbus goalie and the Panthers were off to the races.
- Panthers 2, Blue Jackets 0 (3:09, 1st): On Florida’s second shot on goal, Gus Forsling takes a slick pass from Sam Reinhart and throws one through.
- Panthers 3, Blue Jackets 0 (6:09, 1st): Reinhart gets this one going, his shot stopped on the doorstep. But Sasha Barkov corrals the puck, makes a move while falling and sweeps it through. Florida is outshooting the Jackets 11-1 and Elvis is done for the night.
- Panthers 3, Blue Jackets 1 (15:41, 1st): Just as it appeared things were getting out of hand, Erik Gudbranson fires up a shot from the halfwall for the CBJ’s second SOG of the night — with Sean Kuraly pulling down the fat rebound and scoring.
- Panthers 3, Blue Jackets 2 (18:51, 1st): Boone Jenner drives in and the Columbus captain beats his old goalie.
- Blue Jackets 3, Panthers 3 (10:02, 2nd PP): Ivan Provorov sent a shot from the left point which somehow slipped past Bobrovsky — and Kirill Marchenko punched it home to tie this thing up.
- Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 3 (12:30, 3rd): Alexander Texier drove in and had a shot deflected and then bounce off the cage — only to land on his stick. The Jackets have their first lead on the Panthers in almost a year.
- Panthers 4, Blue Jackets 4 (19:03, 3rd): Nick Cousins cashes in on a turnover deep in the offensive zone to force overtime.
- Panthers 5, Blue Jackets 4 (1:26 OT): Carter Verhaeghe scored on a rebound from Anton Lundell.
FHN’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME
1. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida
2. Spencer Martin, Columbus
3. Nick Cousins, Florida
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ WASHINGTON CAPITALS
- When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
- TV/Streaming: TNT/HBO Max
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932; NHL/Panthers App
- Last Season: Panthers won 3-0
- This Season: @Washington Wednesday; @Florida Feb. 8, Feb. 24
- All-time regular season series: Washington leads 67-46-12, 9 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Friday vs. Carolina, 7 p.m.