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Panthers extend road streak to five, top Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Florida Panthers cut it close Friday but won their fifth game in a row, 2-1 in a shootout against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

Though Aleksander Barkov scored the deciding goal in the bottom of the fourth round with a backhand, the Panthers wouldn't have been there without the patience of Jonathan Huberdeau.

After Cam Atkinson scored for Columbus in the second round, Florida was down to its final attempt in the third when Huberdeau patiently waited for goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to flinch and then shot the puck over him and underneath the crossbar.

"I kind of read him," Huberdeau said. "I don't think he bites on shots, so I said, 'I'm going to put him down.' It worked out."

Florida (13-9-4) won a fifth straight road game to tie a Panthers record. They have won the first four of a five-game trip that ends Sunday at the New Jersey Devils.

"The confidence is building," Florida right wing Jaromir Jagr said. "When you win some games, you believe in yourself more. Sometimes it's not pretty, but it's effective."

Vincent Trocheck scored early in the second period for Florida, and Michael Chaput tied it later in the period. Bobrovsky made 31 saves; Al Montoya had 22 for Florida.

Columbus (10-16-1) killed a too-many-men penalty with 2:53 left in overtime to reach its first shootout this season.

Florida survived consecutive penalties with six minutes left in the third period. Four kills in the game ran its successful streak to 18; Columbus has failed to score on 23 straight opportunities.

"Give the grinders credit," Florida coach Gerard Gallant said. "They worked hard. They got in the way. They had a couple of chances, but overall the penalty kill was good."

The Panthers won 2-1 at the Nashville Predators on Thursday but looked like the fresher team. The Blue Jackets last played Tuesday.

"I thought the energy might be down, but we played a great first period," Gallant said.

Not so for Columbus, which has lost three in a row.

"It's very disappointing, not just the start, but how we played it," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "To me, it was a little lack of respect for the opponent. I don't understand how we can disrespect an opponent when we're looking up at all 29 teams.

"I didn't expect this one. I thought we were finding our way as far as mental preparation."

The Panthers couldn't score on 15 shots in the first period but one they didn't mean to take gave them a 1-0 lead at 1:16 of the second.

Trocheck scored his eighth as a Florida power play ended when his centering pass banked off the right knee of Columbus defenseman Justin Falk into the net. Falk went to the ice to block the passing lane at the crease.

"That was a pass," Trocheck said. "The defenseman went down. We got those bounces. Those are the kind of goals you get when you're playing hard."

The Blue Jackets made it 1-1 with unlikely sources contributing at 12:49. Defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk got his first NHL assist in 11 games with a pass in front to Chaput. He settled the pass with his stick before getting his second NHL goal in 51 games.

Chaput was in the lineup because left wing Scott Hartnell was healthy scratch. Hartnell was out in part because he took a late penalty Tuesday that led to the winning third-period goal on the power play for the Montreal Canadiens in a 2-1 loss.

"It's an accumulation of others' play and his lack of discipline," Tortorella said. "That was a tough penalty to take in Montreal, but it was not a reaction to that.

"He's struggled a little bit. He was my best player when I first came here. He was the most effective player we had."

Asked if Hartnell will play Saturday at the Philadelphia Flyers, Tortorella said, "I haven't even thought about the lineup tomorrow."

The Blue Jackets have three goals in three games and have played five straight with two or fewer. That has been magnified because they are trying to dig themselves out of a 0-8-0 start. In the past three games, Columbus went into the third period tied 1-1 and came away with the one point Friday.

"We did find a way to get a point," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "We didn't do that against Montreal. We didn't do that against [the St. Louis Blues (a 3-1 loss last Saturday)]. I'm going to build on that, but we were looking for two points. That game should have been ours."

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