COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Linemates Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner each had a goal and an assist in the first period, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets past the Florida Panthers 4-1 on Saturday night.
After Brad Boyes cut Florida’s deficit to 2-1 early in the second period, Nick Foligno and Mark Letestu scored for the Blue Jackets. Nathan Horton had two assists in the opening 20 minutes.
In their last 13 games, the Blue Jackets won eight in a row, lost three straight and now have won the past two. It was Columbus’ final home game for a month due to four road games and the NHL Olympic hiatus.
Down 3-1 going into the third, the Panthers dominated the pace but Bobrovsky made several big stops to maintain the two-goal lead. He improved to 11-2 in his last 13 starts.
The Blue Jackets considered it a must-win game, since they started the day in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, one point out of third and one point out of a wild-card spot.
Columbus has won the last six meetings with the Panthers, dating to 2007, and is 9-4 in the series.
Tim Thomas had 26 saves for the Panthers, who have lost three straight.
In a crisp, hard-hitting and clean first period, the Blue Jackets’ line of Johansen, Jenner and Horton — ages 21, 20 and 28, respectively — played particularly well.
After getting a pass from Horton, Johansen carried the puck from the right wing, waited patiently for an opening, and fed a lead pass to Jenner on a 2-on-1 break. As he ran out of room, he wristed a shot that Thomas stopped. But as Thomas, lying on his stomach, tried to gather the puck, he flicked it with his stick under his glove. Jenner crashed the net and jammed the puck into an empty net at 15:33 for his ninth goal.
Just 2½ minutes later, Jenner ended up with the puck off a pass from Horton and skated parallel to the goal line to the left wing. Jenner threw a blind, behind-the-back pass to the crease where Johansen was alone for his 22nd.
Florida dominated the opening minutes of the second, outshooting the Blue Jackets 8-1.
That pressure paid off when Boyes scored his 15th goal. His pass went off the stick of defenseman David Savard and past a surprised Bobrovsky at 7:41.
Florida’s Nick Bjugstad struck a post with a wrist shot that would have tied it, but the Blue Jackets then stretched their lead.
Foligno skated with the puck through the neutral zone and from near the top of the right circle unloaded a snap shot that appeared to handcuff Thomas and trickled through his pads. He dived with his stick to try to prevent it from going over the line, but was too late.
NOTES: Columbus LW Blake Comeau, still hurting from a sprained ligament in his left knee, was scratched for the second straight game. … It was the first meeting between the teams in almost two years. Columbus had won the last five matchups. … Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s brother, Jan, is a European scout for the Panthers. … Florida will play two of its final three games at home before the Olympic break. The Blue Jackets head out on a three-game trip to Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. … Columbus D David Savard returned after missing four games with an illness.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: