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Panthers can rally down 0-2 against Lightning, just ask former Blue Jackets

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Alex Wennberg and David Savard, former teammates with the Columbus Blue Jackets, get reacquainted during Game 1 on Sunday. Both players were with Columbus in 2018 when the Jackets held a 2-0 lead on the Capitals and lost the next four games. // Photo by Roger Topalian, 21st Century Photography (561) 488-0000

The Florida Panthers have a handful of former Columbus Blue Jackets on their team and if anyone knows about rallying from a 0-2 hole in the playoffs, it is them.

Well, at least they saw it done.

In 2018, the Jackets jumped to a 2-0 lead on the Washington Capitals, winning the first two games in D.C. and then riding a wave of euphoria home to Columbus where they were ready to win a couple games and move on.

It did not happen.

The Capitals got a goal from Lars Eller nine minutes into double overtime to win Game 3 at Nationwide Arena to get themselves off the mat in the best-of-7 series.

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The Capitals did not go to Columbus trying to win the series in one night.

They went to win the first game — and let things go from there.

That is what the Panthers have to do now down 0-2 to the Lightning as the series turns to Tampa on Thursday. Florida lost Game 2 to the Lightning 3-1 on Tuesday night.

The odds for Florida are most definitely longer than they were for Washington in that the Panthers are taking on the defending champions.

Thursday night, the Panthers need to be worried about winning Thursday night — and nothing else but that.

Win Game 3 and that gives you a chance to tie things up on Saturday.

Lose, and things are not pretty.

”This is a great hockey team and that’s our challenge,” Joel Quenneville said Wednesday morning. “We know we have to get better as we go on in this series. We played Tampa extremely well in their building and that’s where it has to start. We have to get the momentum back in our favor. They started with it, kept it early. … It is where it’s at. First rounds are tough series. We’re battling back. We’ve done it all year. This is a great team and it’ll be a great feat. …

”I feel that the guys are extremely positive and feel they can get this done. That has to be our mindset. We’re not thinking about anything but tomorrow.”

The Panthers will be getting spark plug center Sam Bennett back from suspension for Game 3 and Quenneville said they missed his straight-ahead style of play.

Florida did not challenge Andrei Vasilevskiy enough in Game 2 and need to put some traffic in front of the net.

With Bennett back, the Panthers are expecting to go back to playing 12 forwards and six defensemen after going 12/7 on Tuesday.

“He certainly can help us in all areas of our team game,” Quenneville said. “He makes a big impact when he plays for us. We’re going to add that to our team. That’ll give us a little more purpose in some areas and a little more consistency. … He is an inside centerman, he finds his way to the hard areas, takes guys on in the hard areas. His production, with that line, they seem to get through the middle of the ice.”

As for the goalie Thursday, Quenneville said the decision had not been made although the team will either go with Chris Driedger for a second consecutive start or go back to Sergei Bobrovsky.

Chris Driedger went in Game 2 and gave up two goals — one went off of a sliding Anton Stralman — on 28 shots.

“We talked about it last night, we’ll talk about it again,” Quenneville said.

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