SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers were able to save themselves after squandering away a three-goal lead on Monday night — mounting a comeback in the last minute of the game to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 in overtime at Amerant Bank Arena.
Here are tonight’s takeaways from an eventful game in Sunrise.
Florida leapt out of the gates on the frontfoot
Puck drop on Monday night was just after 7 p.m. local time in Sunrise. The Panthers definitely got the memo of what time the game started.
Florida had the ice tilted in their favor for nearly all of the first period. Within the first 6:09 of the game, Florida had already gone up 3-0 on Columbus.
Ryan Lomberg opened the scoring just 2:19 into the game — picking up his first goal of the season from below the goal line.
Less than a minute after Lomberg got the Panthers on the board, Gustav Forsling’s slapshot from the point would get past Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins. — giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Aleksander Barkov would wrap up the Panthers trifecta at the 6:09 mark of the first period. Before some were in their seats, Florida led 3-0.
The Panthers would chase Merzlikins from the game following the third goal. Spencer Martin would take over in net for the Blue Jackets.
With over 15 minutes played in the first, Florida had a 20-1 shot advantage. The Panthers would end the period leading 20-7 in that department.
Columbus’ comeback train was moving
The start of the game was not pretty for the visiting Blue Jackets. They were being heavily outshot, they trailed by three goals just minutes into the game, and the Panthers had the pinned in their own zone for most of the first period. But as we’ve seen countless times in hockey, all you need is one.
Columbus forward Sean Kuraly was able to end Florida’s barrage, getting Columbus on the board 15:41 into first — cutting the Panthers lead to 3-1. Kuraly’s goal was not only important because it got the Blue Jackets on the board, but it was also just Columbus’ second shot of the game.
Finally on the board, the Blue Jackets would add to their tally three minutes later. After an o-zone turnover by the Panthers, Columbus’ captain Boone Jenner would put his sixth goal of the season past former teammate Sergei Bobrovsky. The Panthers three goal lead became just one in a matter of minutes.
Columbus looked down for the count early in the game, but they were able to overcome the terrible start with two unanswered goals late in the first.
The Blue Jackets trailed 3-2 after 20 minutes of play.
Columbus’ comeback campaign would continue pushing along in the second.
After getting the first power play of the night 9:46 into the second, the Blue Jackets would overcome the three-goal deficit. At the 10:02 mark of the period, Kirill Marchenko tied the game at 3-3.
Florida’s performance in the second was a far cry from the first 15 minutes of the game. Columbus flipped the ice, taking all the momentum into the final intermission with the game tied.
The Blue Jackets comeback efforts would eventually result in their first lead of the night.
12:30 into the third period, Columbus’ rally would finally see them on top. Whilst leading the rush into the Panthers’ zone, Alexandre Texier tapped his own deflected pass in behind Bobrovsky, giving the Jackets a 4-3 lead.
Nick Cousins the late game hero
With the game on the line and just a minute remaining, Nick Cousins is probably not the first guy you’d expect to save the day.
Trailing 4-3 with just a few minutes to play in the game, Florida had their top guys on the ice with the goalie pulled.
Blue Jackets goalie Spencer Martin was slamming the door shut in the clutch — preventing the Panthers from tying the game.
“I think he looked great out there,” Gustav Forsling said about Martin post game. Martin would finish the night with 34 saves on 36 shots.
After an extensive shift deep in the Columbus zone led to nothing, the tired Panthers had to make a change, taking most of the top players off the ice.
After a good forecheck by Anton Lundell and Nick Cousins, Jackets defenseman Ivan Provorov could not clear the zone. Cousins would get the turnover near the slot before he fired a shot past Martin to tie the game at 4-4 with 56 seconds remaining in regulation.
Cousins’ goal would prevent the Blue Jackets comeback win, sending the game to overtime instead.
“It feels great. Obviously nice to contribute,” Cousins said when asked about scoring the tying goal. “It’s nice to get that goal there when the team needed it most.”
Carter Verhaeghe comes up with another overtime winner
In overtime, if there’s one guy the Panthers’ trust most to get them over the finish line, it’s Carter Verhaeghe.
After Nick Cousins tied the game in the final moments of the third, the Panthers and Blue Jackets went to overtime to play for the extra point.
In overtime, Columbus had a glorious odd-man rush chance to end the game, but a missed pass allowed Matthew Tkachuk to head man the puck up the ice to Anton Lundell. With Verhaeghe streaking down the wing to his left on a 2-on-1, Lundell fired a low shot on the ice — which was kicked away by Spencer Martin. However, Verheaghe was in the perfect spot to bury the rebound for the game winner.
Verhaeghe’s fourth goal of the season would complete the 5-4 late-game comeback in OT.
“That’s why he’s on the ice in overtime, head coach Paul Maurice said. “If he can get a break and get it on his stick something good might happen.”
The Panthers improve their record to 6-4-1 on thee season. They’ll hit the road Wednesday for a matchup against the Washington Capitals.