Thursday night's matchup was a measuring stick game for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After being outscored 17-6 in the two prior meetings against the Panthers this season, the Blue Jackets came in winners of six in their last seven games looking to exact revenge against Florida.
Columbus recently set a franchise record with 46 goals in their last 10 games dating back to Jan. 27, ranking second in the league over that span with 4.60 goals a game, and trailing only...you guessed it...the Panthers (4.63). Florida scored 37 goals in eight games.
The Panthers came into Thursday's game off a rare loss, 6-4, on Tuesday night to the Nashville Predators.
With Elvis Merzlikins being placed on IR Thursday with a day-to-day lower body injury, and with Joonas Korpisalo going on IR on Wednesday (lower body), Jean-Francois Berube was back between the pipes making his third straight start.
Berube made 39 saves on 42 shots, helping backstop the Blue Jackets to their fourth straight win, and his third straight victory, 6-3. Jonas Johansson made the start for the Panthers, making 22 saves on 27 shots.
No Werenski, No Problem
Already tasked with stopping the league's best offense, a Panthers team who came in scoring 4.12 goals a game, the Blue Jackets were without star defenseman Zach Werenski.
Werenski might have been banged up in Tuesday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs after a check into the boards. He didn't practice Wednesday and did not make the brief road trip. Werenski is considered day-to-day with a lower body injury.
This meant Gabriel Carlsson drew back into the lineup, and the defensive pairings were as constructed below:
#CBJ defensive pairs in pregame warmups with Zach Werenski out:— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) February 24, 2022
Some numbers after 1 period:— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) February 25, 2022
11-10 shots edge to Fla.
Jackets have 17 hits and 6 blocked shots. #CBJ
The way it's going, you knew Carlsson would be one to score in Werenski's absence, right? He did just that with his second goal of the season (unassisted) at 3:12 of the third period. It held up as the official game-winner.
Carlsson finished with one goal, was +2, and played 12:49.
Different, Fast Start
The Blue Jackets were off to a brisk start right off the opening face-off, trying to swarm the Swedish goaltender, Johansson. The game got off to a quick start with no whistles until 13:08.
Big key to tonight, quick starts. In the other two games, the Panthers were up 1-0 within the first minute and 2-0 within four minutes. #CBJ must get off to a better start.— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) February 25, 2022
It's hard to shut down the Panthers but you can try to slow them down.
The Jackets had a 3-2 shots edge nearly halfway into the game but the seventh-rounder MacKenzie Weegar scored his sixth to start the scoring at 8:33. Assists went to Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov.
The Blue Jackets had 17 hits from 13 players in the first period and Patrik Laine extended his point streak to 11 games—the third-longest streak in team history—with a first period goal at 15:05 for his 19th tally. Jake Voracek had his team-leading 34th assist and added another on Cole Sillinger's third period goal.
Columbus finished with 43 hits on the evening with Sean Kuraly leading the way with eight.
You never could have written the Hollywood script quite as well as the current Berube story. At least, you would never have expected the Blue Jackets to have consecutive victories over the Buffalo Sabres, Maple Leafs, and Panthers. Berube was a huge reason why in all three games.
Berube and the penalty kill stopped all four Panthers' power play opportunities. He's 3-0-0 (.925 SV%, 2.99 GAA) on the season and even has an assist on the resumé!
Earlier, Dan covered the awesome start to the season for Berube.
J-F Berube improved to 3-0-0 with the @BlueJacketsNHL and became the second goaltender in franchise history to start his tenure with three straight wins, joining Steve Mason (3-0-0 in 2008-09).#NHLStats: https://t.co/5OBg9VFRZW https://t.co/lGqUpyIZiu— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 25, 2022
The Blue Jackets are back at it Friday night from PNC Arena to face the Carolina Hurricanes. Columbus is 1-2-0 against the Hurricanes, coming in off of last month's 6-0 victory on Jan. 13 in Carolina. Columbus lost at Nationwide Arena, 5-1, on Oct. 23, and 7-4 on Jan. 1. Friday's face-off is set for 7:00 pm ET.