Panthers hope short skid doesn’t grow, visit Blue Jackets

The Florida Panthers will aim to avoid a three-game winless skid on Sunday evening when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Florida split the first four contests of its five-game homestand before taking a 5-4 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday, which followed a 6-4 setback to the Dallas Stars.

The Panthers erased an early two-goal deficit as well as a pair of one-goal margins before falling to the Flames.

“We always have good moments in the game and bad moments. We keep learning,” Florida captain Aleksander Barkov said. “It’s a long season. We’ve just got to keep our heads up and keep learning from those moments. It was a good point (Saturday). Of course we wanted two, but we didn’t get it (Saturday). We have a new chance (Sunday).”

Matthew Tkachuk scored against his former team to forge a 4-4 tie with 6:14 remaining in regulation.

Tkachuk acknowledged that he viewed Saturday’s contest as just another game, which makes a fair amount of sense since he was the one who requested to be traded from Calgary prior to the deal coming to fruition.

“I mean, I have to move on,” Tkachuk said, per the Miami Herald. “I’ve got great memories there, but it’d be unfair to my teammates here, to the fans and this organization that put a lot into this trade, into getting me, and it’d be unfair for me not to close that book yet.”

Tkachuk also set up Sam Reinhart’s power-play goal midway into the second period on Saturday. Tkachuk has team-leading totals in assists (17) and points (24) for the Panthers, who have 13 goals with the man advantage in 18 games this season.

Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to be in net to face his former team on Sunday. The two-time Vezina Trophy recipient owns a sterling 8-1-1 record with a 2.48 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 10 career encounters vs. Columbus.

The Blue Jackets had collected seven points in a four-game stretch (3-0-1) before losing 6-1 to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

“They did exactly what they wanted to do this building (on Saturday),” Columbus defenseman (and former Panther) Erik Gudbranson said.

Offseason acquisition Johnny Gaudreau recorded his seventh point (one goal, six assists) in his last seven games after setting up Emil Bemstrom’s goal in the second period.

“We were fine for a period and a bit,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “We started to force things that weren’t there, and it can go bad real quick. We’ve got to clean that up.”

It got pretty bad in a hurry in two of the three meetings last season against the Panthers.

Carter Verhaeghe, who leads Florida with 11 goals this season, scored twice during a four-goal period in a 9-2 rout over Columbus on Jan. 15. Reinhart then tallied twice during another four-goal first period, this one resulting in an 8-4 victory for the Panthers on Jan 31.

–Field Level Media