By NICOLE KRAFT, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Short winning streaks are nothing to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They like getting victories in bunches.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and the Blue Jackets shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win.
Pierre-Luc Dubois had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 42-28-5 and joined Philadelphia (1984-86) and Pittsburgh (2010-13) as the only NHL franchises to record 10-game win streaks in consecutive seasons.
The shutout was the 24th of Bobrovsky’s career and his seventh straight win. Sonny Milano, Seth Jones and Thomas Vanek — into an empty net — also scored for Columbus, which moved into a second-place tie in the Metropolitan Division with idle Pittsburgh, each with 89 points.
“We were disciplined, we were smart with the puck,” Bobrovsky said. “We played as a unit, one group, defense and offense. That’s how the game was built up, little moments. We were disciplined, we were smart, we were together.”
Florida dropped to 37-28-7. With 10 games left in the season, the Panthers remained a point behind the idle New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot.
After a scoreless first, Atkinson got Columbus on the board at 59 seconds of the second period, thanks to Artemi Panarin, who stole the puck just outside the blue line and provided a perfect feed. Atkinson beat Roberto Luongo with a one-timer low on the right side for his 18th goal of the season, while Panarin recorded his team-leading 44th assist.
The Blue Jackets made it 2-0 just 2:19 later, when Matt Calvert dug the puck out of the left corner and fed Milano for his 13th goal, a top-shelf sniper shot driving through the left circle. Pierre-Luc Dubois earned his 23rd assist and Calvert his 14th.
“The game was lost in the (first) 10 minutes of the second period,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “They came at us hard and we made some mistakes. We hit a few posts. They get a 3-0 lead with a goalie like that, it’s hard to come back.”
The Blue Jackets’ third goal came at 5:42 of the third period, 10 seconds after a center-ice scrum sent Florida’s Frank Vatrano off on a double-minor for roughing and interference, and Columbus’ Zach Werenski off for slashing. Jones, back after missing three games with an upper-body injury, scored his 15th of the season with a slap shot from just inside the blue line.
It was Jones’ 50th point and sixth power-play goal of the season for a team-leading 19th point with a man advantage. Dubois recorded his ninth multipoint game. The goal ended Florida’s streak of 24 straight penalty kills over 10 games.
Vanek’s empty-netter at 17:35 of the third, his 21st goal of the season, made it 4-0.
Despite his team’s success, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella is aiming to keep his the Blue Jackets focused on the bigger prize: a trip to the playoffs for the second straight season.
“Nine teams are trying to get in, in both conferences, and we are one of them,” he said. “That far outweighs any thinking about streaks.”
NOTES: Columbus’ David Savard played in his 400th NHL game. … Defenseman Alexander Petrovic returned to Florida’s lineup after missing three of the last four games with a lower-body injury. … Jack Johnson and Brandon Dubinsky were both healthy scratches for Columbus. The Blue Jackets have not lost since March 2.
Panthers: host the Coyotes on Saturday.
Blue Jackets: host the Blues on Saturday.
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