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Blue Jackets top Lightning for fourth straight win

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Happy 27th birthday, Jack Johnson.

The Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman had two assists in the third period to help his team extend its winning streak to four games with a 3-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Nationwide Arena on Monday.

Johnson's shot from the blue line was redirected by Mark Letestu at 17:22 after Nathan Horton had tied the score at 3:09 with a blast from the top of the left faceoff circle.

"Horts made a great shot. Mine seemed to have eyes," Johnson said.

Johnson wasn't as happy Jan. 1, when the U.S. team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics was announced and he wasn't on the roster. Johnson has made 69 career international appearances and was a member of the silver medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

He said he's no longer commenting about the perceived snub and prefers talking about the Blue Jackets (22-20-4), whose fourth straight win put them two games above the .500 mark for the first time this season.

"It felt great to get a comeback win on my birthday," he said. "I can rest easier tonight."

Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman scored in the second period for Tampa Bay to overcome a goal by Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen earlier in the period, but penalties eventually caught up to the Lightning (27-15-4), who killed the first four before giving up two man-up goals in the third.

"We've been good 5-on-5," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "You need your special teams to bail you out. Tonight it cost us. This has been a tough stretch. It seems like we're giving up power-play goals every game. That's unacceptable. We needed a kill and we didn't get it."

Horton scored his second goal in six games after missing the first 40 following left shoulder surgery shortly after signing with Columbus in July.

It was the 200th goal of Horton's career in his 597th game and the 27th against the Lightning, the most he has scored against any opponent. Columbus is 5-1 since Horton returned.

"Jack made a great play," Horton said. "He dragged the puck a little bit and took their guy with him and the other guys went with [defenseman James Wisniewski], so I tried to get it to the net and [forward Artem] Anisimov a made a great screen."

Tampa Bay went on the power play after the Horton goal and gave up a shorthanded breakaway to Brandon Dubinsky, but he fired left of the goal. Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky then made a point-blank save on Ondrej Palat to preserve the tie.

Then it was the Blue Jackets turn and they connected 50 seconds into a hooking penalty to Tyler Johnson.

"We've been very strong on the PK most of the season, but it hasn't been very good the past few games," Hedman said.

Bobrovsky made 26 saves for his third straight win since being out a month with a groin strain, although his streak of more than 133 minutes without allowing a goal at home was snapped.

Anders Lindback made his fourth consecutive start for the Lightning; top goalie Ben Bishop, who had been out with a sprained wrist, was on the bench and could start Tuesday at the New York Rangers. Lindback made 25 saves.

"They found a way in there," Lindback said. “We kind of knew their mentality is to shoot from the blue line and stack the screens. We've got to block those or go out and get them."

Added Cooper: "We had an awful start and Lindy made some big time-time saves for us. We roared back in the second. We found our legs. We were OK in the third. Ultimately, we had way too many penalties. It turned into a special teams game and theirs was better than ours."

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