COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Less than a week ago, Columbus forward Josh Anderson was sidelined by a lower body injury.
Good thing for the Blue Jackets, he heals quickly.
Anderson had a goal and an assist as the Blue Jackets rallied to beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 Thursday night, pulling two points behind Washington in Metropolitan Division and the Presidents’ Trophy race for the league’s best record.
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Sergei Bobrovsky finished with 33 saves for his NHL-leading 38th win, as Columbus won for the sixth time in eight games.
”The top of our division is really tight,” said Werenski. ”We want to be No. 1. We are not trying to slow down now. We are going to pick it up, and hopefully we can get first come the end of the season.”
Panthers goaltender James Reimer stopped 32 shots as Florida lost for the ninth time in 11 games and sits seven points out of a playoff spot with 13 games remaining.
”They played their hearts out,” Panthers general manager and interim coach Tom Rowe said. ”They know what’s on the line. We just have to keep fighting until the end.”
The Panthers got the scoring started with 1:45 left in the first period when a barrage of Florida shots left Bobrovsky sprawling on the ice, and Jonathan Marchessault chipped the puck in top shelf, with assists to Thomas Vanek and Alex Petrovic. The goal extended Marchessault point streak to four games.
Columbus tied it with 4:05 left in the second when Werenski’s shot from the far left side of the ice caught Reimer looking for his 11th.
Anderson, who had an assist on Werenski’s goal, then put the Blue Jackets ahead for good with 39 seconds remaining in the second when he knocked Jack Johnson’s blue-line shot down and into the net for his 15th.
”That gave us a boost for sure,” Anderson said. ”In the first period, we were … a little sloppy. We cleaned it up in the second period. We just went to work. We have to catch a couple of other teams in the standings. Going down to these last 15 games, every team is going to be gunning for each other, and it’s going to be a battle every night.”
For Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, the effort represented continued growth for his young team, which got its franchise-record 26th home win.
”I think you can call this game a bit of an experience game for us,” Tortorella said. ”That is a really desperate hockey team. They’ve got some big, strong, good forwards. The defense moves the puck well. They come in with confidence. That’s a good experience game to work through and manage some indecisive play at times, and really some not so good play at times, and find a way to win it.”
NOTES: Blue Jackets play-by-play man Jeff Rimer, who was previously the voice of the Panthers, was honored before the matchup for having called 2,000 NHL games. … Panthers D Keith Yandle played in his 620th consecutive game, a streak dating back to March 26, 2009.
Panthers: At the New York Rangers on Friday night.
Blue Jackets: At the New York Islanders on Saturday.