COLUMBUS (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida Panthers have gradually been making their way up the Eastern Conference standings despite having to overcome a few obstacles.
The Panthers haven’t shown much offensive firepower this season, so coach Gerard Gallant was excited to see his club pepper the opposing goaltender for a full 60 minutes in their previous game.
Columbus Blue Jackets bench boss Todd Richards hasn’t been able to dish out much praise for anything lately.
Visiting Florida was hoping to have Roberto Luongo back in net as it looks to end an eight-game losing streak to the Blue Jackets on Monday night, but it appears that the starting netminder will be given at least one more game off.
The Panthers’ 44 goals and 7.0 shot percentage both rank second-to-last in the NHL, and they totaled four goals in their previous three games before facing Ottawa on Friday.
Florida (9-6-6), seeking its first three-game win streak, broke out against the Senators with a season-high 46 shots in a 3-2 win that featured third-period goals from Sean Bergenheim and Jimmy Hayes.
“We worked hard and kept pushing and pushing, and finally a couple pucks got by (Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson),” Gallant said. “It was probably our best offensive game.”
Vincent Trocheck had two assists, including one to Hayes on the winning goal.
“We’ve had some chemistry going,” Hayes said of linemate Trocheck. “We’ve been talking about when one guy has the puck, we have to play a north-south game; the other guy has to get to the net. He’s been finding me there.”
Al Montoya made 22 saves in place of Luongo, who departed midway through Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Carolina due to a lower-body injury after stopping 11 shots. Luongo is considered day to day, but Montoya will get his second straight start on Monday in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets (6-15-2) have had trouble scoring on any goaltender lately, getting shut out twice and totaling eight non-shootout goals during a six-game losing streak.
Columbus also has surrendered the second-most goals in the league with 82, but Curtis McElhinney made 40 saves as one of the few bright spots in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Nashville.
Ryan Johansen has had a hand in five goals during Columbus’ 0-5-1 skid and scored for the third time in that stretch against the Predators.
“We did a lot of good things that we will be able to look at and show the guys,” Johansen said. “There are some things we still need to get better at, and we have to find ways to capitalize on opportunities right now.”
The Blue Jackets have gone 2-13-2 since winning four of their first six, including a nine-game losing streak from Oct. 24-Nov. 11.
“We’ve got to find ways to win hockey games,” Richards said. “Our goaltender was very good, kept us in it. (We) found a way to tie it up, had a chance. I’m just talking about getting it to OT, getting a point, but obviously we failed at that.”
Sergei Bobrovsky had a 3.76 goals-against average while starting the first five games of the current skid. However, he’s won his last five starts with a 1.97 GAA against Florida and made 33 saves in a 3-2 victory in the most recent meeting April 12.
Luongo stopped 35 shots in that contest for the Panthers, who haven’t beaten the Blue Jackets since a 5-2 victory Nov. 21, 2007. Florida has lost four straight in Columbus since a 1-0 win there Jan. 3, 2004.
While the Blue Jackets’ next game is Thursday at Florida, the Panthers play at Detroit on Tuesday before that rematch.
Columbus will be without center Artem Anisimov, who’s expected to miss two to three months with a torn triceps muscle sustained Saturday. Anisimov has two goals and four assists on the season.
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