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Raffi Torres scores twice to lead Columbus to a 3-1 win over Florida

NHL.com @NHL

SUNRISE, Fla. - Raffi Torres scored twice late in the third period to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.

Torres scored his first goal of the night with 2:46 remaining in the third. He tied it at 1 and ruined Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun's bid for his seventh shutout of the season.

Then, with just 1:33 left, Torres scored on a wrist shot to put Columbus up 2-1. Antoine Vermette added an empty-net goal with 19 seconds left.

Rostislav Olesz scored his first goal since Nov. 1 for Florida, which lost for the fifth time in six games.

Steve Mason made 22 saves for the Blue Jackets, playing in South Florida for the first time since a 5-4 overtime win over the Panthers on Jan. 14, 2006.

Vokoun stopped 34 shots.

It was an important game for both teams, who are each jockeying for playoff spots in their respective conferences.

The Blue Jackets have never made the playoffs since entering the NHL in 2000-01. With just a few weeks remaining, however, they seem poised to make their inaugural trip to the post season.

Columbus entered Saturday's game in sixth place in the Western Conference, and moved within three points of fifth-place Chicago with the win.

The Blue Jackets, coming off a 4-3 overtime win over Chicago on Wednesday, also set a franchise record for points in a season with 82, beating last season's mark of 80.

The Panthers, who will end a five-game homestand on Monday against Carolina, were in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Montreal.

They have not been to the playoffs since 2000.

Olesz put Florida up 1-0 with 4:29 left in the first period.

Mason couldn't control Nick Tarnasky's shot, which trickled between his pads and slowly moved across the crease.

Olesz, who missed 43 games this season and underwent surgery for a sports hernia earlier this year, fought off a Columbus defender to put the loose puck into the net.

Notes: Florida, which didn't manage a shot in the third period of Tuesday's 3-0 loss to Washington, didn't get a shot on goal until 5:38 was left in the first period Saturday. Cory Stillman's shot was met with a round of applause from the BankAtlantic Center crowd. ... Columbus RW Derek Dorsett left the game in the second period with an apparent injury, but returned to the ice in the same period.

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