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Blue Jackets' Bobrovsky shuts out Hurricanes

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- To stop a hot opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets needed an even hotter goaltender. They had one: Sergei Bobrovsky.

He showed his 2013 Vezina Trophy-winning form Friday with 36 saves, several of them sensational, for his second shutout of the season, a 3-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Carolina (19-17-9), coming off a 6-1 win against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, had a five-game winning streak snapped.

"He was on his game today," Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk said of Bobrovsky. "He's obviously a good goalie. When the goalie's playing well you need to make sure you bear down and put your chances in. At the same time, we did get chances, but he was ready for it."

Bobrovsky started his second game after missing 14 because of a groin strain sustained Dec. 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He stopped 40 of 43 shots Monday in a 4-3 shootout win at the New York Rangers.

"I tried to go on the ice and enjoy the game and stop the puck," Bobrovsky said.

Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky scored for Columbus (20-20-4).

Dubinsky said Bobrovsky, named this week to the Russian team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was rewarded for his effort in coming back from the injury.

"He's focused. He worked his butt off when he was out," Dubinsky said. "We know how bad he wanted to get back in the net. He certainly performed to the top of his game."

Bobrovsky preserved the shutout during consecutive power plays by Carolina, including 63 seconds of a two-man advantage beginning midway through the third period. He stopped three straight whacks by Elias Lindholm at the goal line and snapped a drive by Zach Boychuk out of the air with his glove.

"It was a huge momentum shift for us," Dubinsky said. "You've got to find ways to come up big in those moments."

Bobrovsky completed the blanking by denying an unmarked Patrick Dwyer with 26 seconds left.

"When he's playing like that he gives us a chance to win every night," Atkinson said. "You can tell by his swagger he was on top of his game, and the crowd was loving it."

Atkinson made it 3-0 at 5:54 of the third period at the end of a double minor for high sticking (the first penalties of the game) to Tuomo Ruutu, although it appeared Brett Bellemore clipped Columbus' RJ Umberger across the bridge of his nose.

Atkinson scored his 12th of the season with 24 seconds left in the elongated man advantage when he wristed a shot from the left wing after taking a Mark Letestu pass.

"The power play wasn't the way we wanted it or drew it up but we found a way to get one, then we got the 5-on-3 kill," Dubinsky said. "We talk about how important special teams are and we won the battle tonight."

The Hurricanes were shut out for the third time this season, Carolina forward Jeff Skinner, who entered with 17 goals in 17 games and 11 points in his previous five games, could not score despite seven shots. But it wasn't just Bobrovsky who stopped him cold.

Atkinson had the defensive play of the first period to keep Skinner from his 22nd goal. Skinner had Bobrovsky out of position on a wraparound, but Atkinson reached with his stick to push the puck away from Skinner when he tried to stuff it inside the left post.

"The first period was like a chess match type of game for both teams," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "Nothing was going on, which we were quite happy with.

"Then, one or two breakdowns and they capitalized. They're a good team. They play a good system. They don't give up much. We don't give up much either, but we weren't able to sustain that second and third opportunity and capitalize."

Goals 70 seconds apart by Jenner and Dubinsky gave the Blue Jackets a first-period lead.

The opening score was enabled by Nathan Horton in his long-awaited home debut, although he was not credited with an assist on Jenner's sixth goal with five minutes left.

Horton missed the first 40 games after undergoing a planned surgery on his left shoulder shortly after the former Boston Bruins forward signed a free-agent contract with the Blue Jackets on July 5. He scored in his first game at the Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 2 and followed with road games against the St. Louis Blues and Rangers.

His forecheck forced Carolina center Brett Sutter to cough up the puck deep in the zone. Jenner pounced on the loose puck and fired a wrist shot past Anton Khudobin.

Dubinsky scored his ninth after he took a pass on the rush from Atkinson. Dubinsky was in the left circle when he snapped a shot over the glove of Khudobin with 3:50 to go.

Khudobin, who stopped 21 of 24 shots losing for the first time in seven decisions this season, didn't play poorly in his second game in as many nights, but Bobrovsky was better.

"He played awesome today and earned the shutout," Khudobin said.

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