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Minus Key Regulars, Jackets Overcome Early Deficit, Rout Panthers

Riding in high on a five-game point streak, the Columbus Blue Jackets were back home Thursday night to face the Florida Panthers who came in on a five-game winning streak. A bug going through the Blue Jackets dressing room forced Sergei Bobrovsky, Riley Nash, and Artemi Panarin from the lineup. Zac Dalpe and Jean-Francois Berube were called up as reinforcements.

Roberto Luongo — who entered the game 4-0-0, 1.33 GAA, .956 SV% — was in goal for the Panthers.

Since missing most of October with a knee injury sustained during opening night, he had flourished, winning four-straight decisions. With that 4-0-0 start, he is just the fourth goalie in NHL history age 39-years or older to accomplish such a start. Dominik Hasek was the last to do it in the 2005-06 season.

The offense for Florida got going first, recording two goals in the first period, but after a sluggish first period, the Jackets’ erupted for seven goals. and a 7-3 win over the Panthers.

In the first period, Mike Matheson unleashed the shot from the blue line that was deflected by Nick Bjugstad and into the net past Joonas Korpisalo at 1:44 to put the Panthers ahead 1-0.

A power play goal from Aaron Ekblad at 6:45, who roofed the puck just outside the crease from the lower half of the left circle extended the early lead. Mike Hoffman’s assist on the goal gave himself a 14-game point streak, a Panthers franchise record. Florida’s power play came in 13th (21.5%) with goals in their last six games.

Columbus failed to generate much of anything in the early portion of the first. But the story shifted in the second period with three goals in the first 6:16.

Down a man to start the second, as Brandon Dubinsky finished out a tripping penalty from the waning moments of the first, Cam Atkinson scored on a 2-on-1 break to get Columbus on the board 2-1. It was Columbus’ third short-handed goal this season, and Atkinson’s ninth-career short-handed goal.

Minutes later, Dubinsky made atones with a goal of his own, banging home the shot by Zach Werenski. The development was full-circle for Dubinsky as he won the face-off in the Panthers’ zone to help set up the offense.

Tied at two, the Jackets grabbed the lead after Luongo came out of his net to stifle a break-away chance by Anthony Duclair, but left the empty net for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois is on a three-game goal streak, as he and Atkinson co-lead the team with nine goals. Duclair picked up his 100th career point on the assist.

Keith Yandle’s snap shot from the point just dropped between Korpisalo’s pads for the score, to give Florida the equalizer with under seven minutes left in the second.

Korpisalo made a flurry of acrobatic saves — five in a 25-second span — midway through the second period, bringing the crowd to its feet. Facing 43 shots on the night, and making 40 saves, he was the games’ third star.

Markus Hannikainen regained the lead for the Jackets with his first of the year, and in perfect timing for what would be the game-winner, a whip-around shot home past Luongo.

Columbus added insurance goals from Duclair, Josh Anderson, and Boone Jenner who sealed the game with the empty-netter for the 7-3 win.

The Blue Jackets are 2-0 against the Panthers this season, winning in Florida, 5-4, Oct. 11. Korpisalo also started that game and is now 5-0-2 this season. Columbus is 11-0-1 in their last 12 against the Panthers, winning the last six decisions, and will face them for the final time Jan. 5 in Sunrise. The seven goals against Florida set a Blue Jackets franchise record for most goals scored at home against the Panthers. It was the first game in nine starts that Luongo allowed at least three goals.

Columbus had 15 skaters join the scoring sheet, including Josh Anderson (one goal), Cam Atkinson (one goal, one assist), Zac Dalpe (one assist), Brandon Dubinsky (one goal, one assist), Pierre-Luc Dubois (one goal, one assist), Anthony Duclair (one goal, one assist), Nick Foligno (one assist), Markus Hannikainen (one goal), Boone Jenner (one goal, one assist), Alexander Wennberg (two assists), and Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara, David Savard, Zach Werenski, who each picked up one assist.

Columbus went 0-for-1 on their only power play chance, ending a four-game streak with a power play goal. John Tortorella’s squad is now on a six-game point streak, and will take on the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.