Reimer pulled for second straight game as Panthers lose to Blue Jackets, 7-3

Matthew DeFranks, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Hockey

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The skate from the opposite goal to the Florida Panthers bench is not an arduous one. About 115 feet bridge the journey, crossing from the north end of the BB&T Center to the lonely perch at the end of the bench reserved for goaltenders. It's not supposed to be a joyous skate, but it's become familiar for James Reimer in the past four days.

During the Panthers' 7-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Reimer was yanked from the game for the second straight time as Florida lost its third consecutive game. With Columbus' seven-goal output on Thursday night, the Panthers have now allowed at least five goals in three of their last five games. They have allowed seven-plus goals in back-to-back games.

Reimer barely lasted 29 minutes on Thursday night, allowing four goals on 19 shots. During Monday night's 8-5 loss to Tampa Bay, Reimer only stopped 14 of 19 shots on goal in less than half a game. Between the two games, Reimer has posted a 9.18 goals against average and .763 save percentage.

On the season, Reimer's numbers dipped to 4.00 and .890, respectively, in nine games played. Both would be career-worsts across an entire season for him, who has started the last six games for Florida with Roberto Luongo sidelined with a right hand injury. Antti Niemi replaced Reimer for the rest of the game.

The Panthers' loss spoiled a three-point night from Vincent Trocheck, who scored a goal and assisted on two others. His shot off Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's pad served up a perfect rebound for Mark Pysyk to score. He began the cycle that ended with Ian McCoshen punishing a puck from the blue line for his second career goal. He chased down a loose puck while short-handed and dribbled a shot past Bobrovsky for his second shorthanded goal of the season.

It didn't change the end result.

Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand each scored two goals for Columbus. The Blue Jackets (9-4-0, 18 points) scored a power-play goal for the first time in eight days when Bjorkstrand erased Trocheck's short-handed goal after just 28 seconds. They added another on the man-advantage in the third period.

The Panthers (4-7-1, 9 points) and coach Bob Boughner have leaned on Reimer to be a stalwart in net while they wait on Luongo's return from an injury suffered Oct. 20. Reimer started off his stint as the No. 1 goaltender strongly.

When the Panthers beat Washington, he posted his first game with at least 40 saves since joining Florida last season. He made at least 30 saves in the following three games as Florida went 1-1-1. But then the Lightning dented him for five and the Blue Jackets beat him for four. The Panthers lost both games.

Luongo's return is uncertain. He's missed six games, and Thursday morning Boughner described the 38-year-old as "week-to-week." Luongo has participated in practice with the rest of the team this week, including morning skate on Thursday, but hasn't been cleared to play.

Luongo's injury forced the Panthers to claim Niemi on waivers from Pittsburgh after a disastrous start with the Penguins. When Niemi arrived in Florida, no goalie in the NHL had a worse save percentage or goals against average. He allowed three goals against Columbus on Thursday night.

After Monday's loss to Tampa Bay, the Panthers held a players-only meeting in the dressing room, called by captain Derek MacKenzie. Defenseman Aaron Ekblad spoke to reporters about the need for more reliable defensemen and the requirement for more passion.

On Wednesday, the Panthers held a defense-centric practice, drilling that end of the ice for 50 minutes. Defensemen stayed after practice to work on the ice. Thursday offered a chance to alter the results. They looked similar.

"I think it's going to be about us tonight, getting back to being ready to play, coming out, playing our style of hockey," Panthers forward Jamie McGinn said before the game. "I think when we do the right things and play really fast, we're a tough team to beat."

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