COLUMBUS -- Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller shuffled his lines before playing Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets in an attempt to generate some offense, but his team didn't get a shot on goal in the third period.
Fortunately for the Hurricanes, they had enough goals in the bank and got a career-best 46-save performance from goaltender Anton Khudobin on the way to a 3-1 victory that stopped a two-game losing streak.
"I'm happy with the win," Khudobin said. "I'd probably be more happy if I didn't get scored on with a minute left, but we got the result. That's the most important thing for me."
The Blue Jackets (35-27-6) saw a 3-0-1 streak end. With the New York Rangers beating the Ottawa Senators, Columbus fell two points behind New York in the race for the Metropolitan Division's third and final automatic berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and into the Eastern Conference's last wild-card spot. The teams meet at Nationwide Arena on Friday.
"The big picture at this point of the year is you have to get points," Columbus left wing RJ Umberger said. "We didn't get any."
Carolina won for the first time in Columbus in five tries since March 8, 2004. The Blue Jackets had won seven in a row in the series dating to December 2005 until the Hurricanes scored three unanswered goals Jan. 27 for a 3-2 win.
Carolina extended its streak of goals against Columbus to six over two games with Gerbe's first-period goal and second-period goals by Loktionov and Dwyer.
"When you score first it's always important," Khudobin said. "It gives you confidence. The game is not over, but everybody feels a little bit relaxed, and we continue to play the game."
Columbus coach Todd Richards replaced starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 17 of 20 shots, with McElhinney to start the third period. McElhinney did not face any shots; the Blue Jackets outshot the Hurricanes 19-0 in the third.
The Hurricanes had lost nine of the previous 12 games and looked to shake things up by putting brothers Eric and Jordan Staal together for the third time this season. They teamed with Alexander Semin on the top line.
Leading goal-scorer Jeff Skinner was to align with Riley Nash and Elias Lindholm, but Lindholm and defenseman Justin Faulk were late scratches because of illness. The Hurricanes lost defenseman Ryan Murphy to an upper-body injury midway through the first period when he was checked into the boards by Blue Jackets center Blake Comeau. Murphy did not return.
"It was a gutsy effort for us to grind it out and find a way to get two points on the road," Muller said.
The Hurricanes didn't let the lineup distractions bother them. They survived a tripping penalty to Jordan Staal 32 seconds after the opening faceoff, and then took the lead on the game's first shot at 3:41 with Gerbe scoring his 15th off a 2-on-1 with Loktionov.
Gerbe looked to his teammate on his left then pulled the puck back and fired a shot past Bobrovsky to the stick side.
"It was a nice change," Jordan Staal said. "They've scored the first goal on us quite a few times. I think they're a different team when they're behind. We kept the crowd out of it."
The Blue Jackets then assumed control, taking the next nine shots. The line of Umberger, Artem Anisimov and Corey Tropp was effective around the net, and Khudobin had to make a save on a Tropp backhander at the side of the crease nine minutes in.
Columbus had two other good chances go for naught in the first. Khudobin denied Comeau on a redirect off a drive by James Wisniewski, and later Wisniewski teed the puck from the blue line, but the shot rang the post.
"We did a lot of good things," Umberger said. "If we get a goal or two early, it's a different game."
But the Blue Jackets couldn't solve Khudobin, who was headed for his third career shutout until the constant Columbus pressure finally took its toll in the closing moments and Jenner scored the 13th goal of his rookie season by redirecting a Ryan Johansen shot.
The Blue Jackets were impressed by Khudobin.
"We ran into a hot goalie," Wisniewski said. "We couldn't get anything by him.
"Unfortunately, we gave them some of their goals, a couple of odd-man rushes, and we got beat on the power play. There's your 3-1 game."
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