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Johansen's OT goal lifts Blue Jackets past Hurricanes

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Columbus Blue Jackets played 60 minutes of hockey without a power-play opportunity. When they finally got their chance in overtime, they made it count.

With the Blue Jackets skating 4-on-3, Ryan Johansen scored on a wrister from the slot at 2:40 of overtime, and Columbus defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 at PNC Arena on Saturday night.

With the win, Columbus (38-30-6) remains in the top wild-card position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference with 82 points. Columbus and the Detroit Red Wings are two points in front of the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, both of which lost Saturday. The Blue Jackets own the tiebreaker against the Red Wings because they have more non-shootout wins.

"First power play of the night. We were ready for it and waiting for an opportunity," said Johansen, whose goal was his 30th. "It was nice that it was a 4-on-3 rather than a 5-on-4 too."

The play was set up with nice passing. After taking a fed from James Wisniewski in the neutral zone, Artem Anisimov absorbed a hit from Justin Faulk before making a pinpoint backhand pass to Johansen.

"That pass was unbelievable," Johansen said. "I'm still surprised he gave me that perfect of a pass. I thought, I can't give this up; I better fire it. [Goalie Anton Khudobin] got a piece of it. Luckily it trickled in."

The Blue Jackets were completing a back-to-back after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Friday night in Columbus. The effects showed in the early minutes of the game, as the Hurricanes' forecheck tested goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who stopped 25 shots after facing Pittsburgh 24 hours earlier.

"He was great," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "The first five minutes when we had some turnovers, he made some great saves, and he at least let our team settle in and keep the crowd out of it."

McElhinney was filling in for Sergei Bobrovsky, who has missed two games with an illness.

"I was seeing pucks from the start," McElhinney said. 'For the most part, we did a good job of limiting their stuff to the outside. The rebounds that were lying around, we did a good job of taking away from them."

The teams played 36 minutes of scoreless hockey before Carolina broke through with Jeff Skinner's 29th goal at 16:29 of the second period. Skinner launched a shot off a pass from Riley Nash, then grabbed his own rebound to beat McElhinney.

The Blue Jackets tied the game 2:17 later on a Skinner turnover. From the boards in the Carolina defensive zone, he sent an errant pass into the slot, where Matt Calvert grabbed it and quickly fired a shot under the crossbar for the tying goal.

"Last night I [scored] one off my pants, but to get an actual shot and score a goal felt good," said Calvert, whose previous goal came March 1 in a 6-3 win over the Florida Panthers. "It felt good. It's been a while personally."

After 40 minutes without a power play for either team, the Blue Jackets had to kill three penalties in the third period. Columbus killed the first one, but Andrei Loktionov gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead on a power-play goal at 6:38. He took a pass from Nash in the right circle and scored on a low shot to the far post.

The Blue Jackets tied it 50 seconds later on Anisimov's 20th of the season. Khudobin tried to sweep away Nathan Horton's shot but fanned, allowing Anisimov to lift a backhand into the net from outside the left post.

Columbus finally went on the man advantage in overtime when Jiri Tlusty smothered the puck with his hand. The Blue Jackets knew what they had to do.

"It was full-blown confidence and belief," Johansen said. "We all trust each other in this room that we will get the job done night in and night out."

The Hurricanes (32-32-10) have faded from playoff contention by going 7-12-1 since Feb. 4.

"It's past frustrating now," Carolina captain Eric Staal said. "We just seem to find ways to lose. It just seems like the chance we have doesn't want to fall and the chance that goes the other way goes in. But tonight was close. It was a tight game."

Carolina coach Kirk Muller saw little fault in his team's play.

"I thought we played really well," Muller said. "It was a playoff-style game. Not much space out there. Unfortunately, three mistakes we made cost us and yet we really didn't make hardly any tonight."

The Blue Jackets are off until Tuesday, when they host the Colorado Avalanche. Columbus will have a chance to collect its breath, and Johansen might take a moment to savor reaching the 30-goal mark. But as his coach reminded everyone after the game, the Blue Jackets will need even more contributions.

"It's a great milestone for a young player, 30 goals," Richards said. "Hopefully by the end of the season it will be 35."

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