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Panthers end 10-game losing streak vs. Blue Jackets

by Alain Poupart /

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sean Bergenheim found a great way to make up for taking 14 minutes of penalties in the second period.

Bergenheim scored the tiebreaking goal with 6:52 left in the third period and the Florida Panthers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 at BB&T?Center on Thursday, snapping a 10-game losing streak in the series.

"Obviously it wasn't good what I???did and I shouldn't have taken the penalty that I???took,"???Bergenheim said. "It was good to kind of do something good for the team in return."

Bergenheim missed the last 7:40 of the second period and the first 6:20 of the third after being assessed minor penalties for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct.

He broke a 2-2 tie when he tipped Dmitry Kulikov's wrist shot from the point past goalie Curtis McElhinney. The goal was confirmed after video review determined the deflection occurred at or below the crossbar. Bergenheim made the deflection just before being hit in the mouth by the stick of defenseman Jack Johnson.

"I???kind of saw the puck go to the blue line and I???just tried to get in front, then the puck came,"???Bergenheim said. "I???like to get shots like that. I???thought it was a good shot by [Kulikov]. I wanted to tip it all along and then I see this stick coming at the same time. Luckily I got the puck first, then I???just took the stick in the mouth."

Johnson was assessed a double minor when he drew blood, though one of the penalties was erased because the Panthers scored on the play. Bergenheim said he likely wouldn't need any stitches.

"I think it was a huge goal,"???said forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored Florida's first goal. "When you go to the front of the net, that's what happens with some goals. It was huge."

Florida, which hadn't beaten Columbus since a 5-2 victory Nov. 21, 2007, ended the second-longest active streak by one opponent against another. The Boston Bruins have a 13-game winning streak against the Edmonton Oilers.

More important, the Panthers (21-15-10)???ended a season-worst five-game losing streak and won at home for the first time in seven games. The six-game home losing streak was their longest since a six-game slide from Dec. 22, 2007-Jan. 13, 2008, and was one off the franchise record set between Feb. 26 and March 24, 2003.

Florida moved within six points of the New York Rangers for the second Eastern Conference wild-card position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Florida trails the Boston Bruins, who hold the first wild-card spot, by seven points but has three games in hand.

Aaron Ekblad had the other goal for the Panthers, who ended a five-game homestand with a 1-3-1 record. Roberto Luongo, who was pulled in the second period of a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, made 30 saves.

Luongo was in his first stint with the Panthers for their last home victory against the Blue Jackets, 1-0 on March 1, 2004.

Florida earned the victory in the last game between the teams this season. Columbus won 2-1 at home and 4-3 in a shootout at BB&T???Center in December when Florida had a 55-20 shot advantage.

"Columbus is a tough team,"???Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "They play hard. They're a big, strong team and they skate and they really forced us to make some mistakes early in the game. We played them twice and they're one-goal games. Two tough teams and we battled and we got a couple of breaks tonight finally."

Johnson and Alexander Wennberg scored for the Blue Jackets, who came in with three victories in their past four games. Center Artem Anisimov returned to the lineup after missing 23 games because of a torn triceps and had an assist.

McElhinney, making his second consecutive start in place of injured goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, made 28 saves for Columbus (21-23-3)?????????in his first career appearance against Florida.

"I felt pretty comfortable," McElhinney said. "It's a continuation of building. I think there's still a few things I would have liked to clean up tonight, just standing around the net and making it easier for the guys down low and help them out as much as possible."

The game was tied 2-2 entering the third period after Wennberg's goal at 18:34 of the second also was confirmed by a video review. Anisimov's pass across the crease went off the stick of defenseman Alex Petrovic and high into the air, and Wennberg basically cross-checked the puck into the net an instant after it floated below the crossbar.

"The first game back there's going to be a little rust and timing and speed but he didn't look out of place,"?????????Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said of Anisimov. "Alex made a great play, waiting for the puck to drop, then knocks it in with the shaft of his stick."

After a scoreless first period, Johnson opened the scoring 1:08 into the second when he one-timed a slap shot from the point high to the glove side past Luongo.

Huberdeau tied it at 2:49 with a backhand from close range, and Ekblad gave Florida a 2-1 lead at 11:36 with a high shot from the point through a screen. Ekblad, the first pick in the 2014 NHL?????????Draft, is tied with Dallas' John Klingberg for most goals by a rookie defenseman with six. Each scored on Thursday.

"Jimmy Hayes was rolling by the net, and as soon as you get in the way of the goalie for that split second, he loses it, so he slides to the other side thinking I'm going blocker and it kind of goes almost middle on the right-hand side,"?????????Ekblad said. "You'll ask me on every goal that I ever score, I shoot it and try to get it past the first guy. That's it. I'm not really looking for much."

Before he scored, Ekblad was stopped on a breakaway by McElhinney, who later did the same thing against Brandon Pirri.

"I thought we played a heck of a lot better than we did last time we came in here,"?????????McElhinney said. "We had some energy and some jump to start the game and we bounced back when they got the second one, too, so that was nice to see. I think we gave ourselves an opportunity to win and it just came down to a nice play on their part and a favorable call for them."

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