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Top line, Bobrovsky help Blue Jackets top Panthers

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets won't play in Nationwide Arena the rest of February, so they wanted to leave a lasting impression with the home fans.

It was mission accomplished when the Blue Jackets received a standing ovation in the final minute of a 4-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. Columbus is 13-4-1 in its past 18 games and in the thick of a second Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in history.

"We definitely wanted to leave Columbus on a good note," forward Ryan Johansen said.

Goals by Boone Jenner and Johansen gave Columbus (28-23-4) a 2-0 lead in the first period with linemate Nathan Horton getting an assist on each. Jenner and Johansen each had an assist for a line that played together for the first time Thursday against the Washington Capitals.

"Boone works so hard, creates turnovers, and [Ryan] makes things happen," Horton said. "It's working for us right now."

Nick Foligno and Mark Letestu also scored for Columbus. Brad Boyes had the goal for Florida (21-27-7).

"It's not want we want," Boyes said. "Tonight was a good test. They work hard and that was good. We pushed back and created a lot of chances. We just didn't score and they did."

Columbus heads to California for games against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks before taking a break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The Blue Jackets' next home game is March 1 against Florida.

"Our game wasn't where it needed to be tonight," Horton said. "We have to be way better when we go out west."

The Blue Jackets were dominated for long stretches but won for the second time in row after losing three straight.

An inability to get the puck out of the zone led to the Panthers' goal that made it 2-1; Boyes scored at 7:41 of the second period after unrelenting pressure. Florida forced Columbus to take a timeout after an icing, but the Blue Jackets iced the puck again without making a line change.

The Panthers took advantage when the Blue Jackets finally cleared the zone and tried to switch up, but Florida brought the puck into the offensive zone. Brian Campbell connected with Boyes on the left side and passed to an unmarked Nick Bjugstad at the back door. Columbus defenseman David Savard reached for the puck but deflected it into his goal, and Boyes had his team-best 15th.

Savard and defense partner Fedor Tyutin had been on the ice more than two minutes by the time the goal was scored.

"It didn't feel like a 4-1 game for us," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "Give Florida a lot of credit. They came out in the second and really came after us and put us on our heels. They were winning battles and we weren't."

Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was otherwise flawless making 36 saves, 29 coming in the last two periods; he is 11-2-0 in his past 13 games.

"Our chances were better," Florida coach Peter Horachek said. "We didn't capitalize on our chances. They capitalized on theirs. We didn't really get a save tonight, but that's where it is."

Bobrovsky, the 2013 Vezina Trophy winner, outplayed Tim Thomas, who won the award in 2009 and 2011 with the Boston Bruins.

Thomas inadvertently helped the Blue Jackets take a 1-0 lead in the first period when he couldn't corral the puck and Jenner scored. Thomas also should have stopped Foligno's wrist shot in the second period after the Boyes goal.

Columbus went ahead 1-0 at 15:33 of the first period when Johansen skated to the right of the net behind the goal line and tried to cut a pass back that Thomas blocked.

"I saw nothing," Johansen said. "I tried to let [Thomas] sprawl out and hopefully find its way back to the front, and Boone found it."

The puck rolled away, and Thomas tried to push it into his glove while lying on his stomach. He instead slipped it under the glove to the crease area where Jenner gathered it and deposited his ninth goal of his rookie season.

"That was terrible luck," Thomas said. "I blocked it, then I went to pull it back in with my stick. My glove was caught on the lip of the net and that's why it was up off the ground."

Columbus struck again 2-1/2 minutes later with Jenner setting up Johansen for his 22nd, third in two games. Jenner drew attention as he skated past the crease, suddenly spun, and fed a backhand to the paint where an unchecked Johansen had an easy tap-in.

The goal by Foligno at 17:46 of the second period rebuilt a two-goal edge for the Blue Jackets after the Boyes goal gave the Panthers momentum.

Foligno sped down is off wing and snapped a shot from the right circle that went under the right arm of Thomas at 17:46 for a 3-1 lead before Mark Letestu added a goal in the third.

With that, a trip for Florida that started with a 5-4 shootout win at the Detroit Red Wings ended with three straight losses while being outscored 16-6.

"You focus on winning the next game," Thomas said. "You don't look at the big picture that you're down. At this point is sounds like a cliché, but that's all we can do."

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