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Rookies help Blue Jackets defeat Panthers, end skid

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The injury-ravaged Columbus Blue Jackets had been looking around the dressing room for help turning things around after a disappointing start to the season, but the answer at least for Monday came from two players who a week earlier weren't even playing in the NHL.

Michael Chaput and Kerby Rychel were called up from the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League on Saturday, and each contributed on a goal when the Blue Jackets broke a six-game losing streak with a 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers at Nationwide Arena.

Chaput set up Matt Calvert's goal in the first period to open the scoring, and it was a rebound of Rychel's shot midway through the third period that Boone Jenner put in for the game-winner.

The Blue Jackets' (7-15-2) third victory in 18 games brought a sense of relief more than exhilaration.

"We know we have a lot to do," Columbus right wing Nick Foligno said. "We haven't arrived anywhere. We have a long way to dig out, but it's a first step."

Calvert gave Columbus the lead after one period, but Aaron Ekblad tied the game 1-1 in the second period on Florida's third power play.

The Panthers (9-7-6), who had won two in a row, lost to the Blue Jackets for the ninth straight time.

"I don't think we respected our opponent enough. That's the bottom line," Panthers defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "That team over there hasn't had things go their way, and they played with more desperation than us. We didn't play with enough passion, enough fire.

"To be honest, I don't think that was the Columbus Blue Jackets' best game either, and we kind of played to their level. Good teams find a way to step on them early and put some doubt in their mind. We didn't do that tonight."

Jenner scored his second goal of the season with 9:55 left in the third with a backhand shot on the rebound of Rychel's shot.

Rychel, a first-round pick (No. 19) in the 2013 NHL Draft, got his first career point in his second game. He is the son of former NHL player Warren Rychel.

After making his debut Saturday at the Nashville Predators, Rychel settled into a line with Jenner and Cam Atkinson vs. the Panthers.

"The third period we really started clicking and cycling the puck better," Rychel said. "Hopefully we can build on that.

"[Jenner] did a great job making me feel comfortable all game. It was a great job by him getting in front of the net. I got a shot on net. He crashed the net and made a really good play."

Assisting on the goal was redemptive for Rychel after a high-sticking penalty led to the tying goal for the Panthers.

"I wanted to make a play to make up for that," he said. "Our line fortunately was able to get a goal."

Ekblad, the first pick in the 2014 NHL Draft who is first among rookie defensemen in scoring in the League, got his third goal and 12th point at 1:23 of the second period, taking advantage when Calvert lost his stick.

Calvert used his skates to try and block Ekblad's shot from the right point, but the puck went past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who was screened by the tussle in front of him between Blue Jackets defenseman Dalton Prout and Panthers left wing Sean Bergenheim.

When Bobrovsky could see the puck, he was stingy. He glided across the crease to deny a one-timer by Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad with six minutes left in the second to keep the score tied. Bobrovsky made 24 saves, but Florida coach Gerard Gallant said he had little work to do.

"Bobrovsky didn't have to be that good tonight because we weren't that good," he said. "Sometimes you have don't have your best game, you still have a chance to win. We did that tonight, but it's disappointing with the effort we had."

Florida backup goalie Al Montoya, who made 21 saves, didn't see much action in the first when Columbus was held without a shot until 8:03 remained, but the Blue Jackets got the lead thanks to the third goal for Calvert.

He scored on the Blue Jackets' second shot with 4:53 left by driving the net in anticipation of a pass from behind the goal line by Chaput. Calvert took the feed on the forehand to freeze Montoya, and then went backhand to put the puck behind him.

Chaput started the season with the Blue Jackets because a spate of injuries that has resulted in 161 man-games lost (6.7 per game) opened a spot. He was sent down Nov. 19 before being recalled to play against Nashville.

He got his third assist of the season and first since Oct. 11, a span of 18 games, on the Calvert goal.

"It's great to play with him," Calvert said. "He's got some skill, made some great plays and is a smart."

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