COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nothing has come easy this season for the injury-riddled Columbus Blue Jackets. At least they were able to exhale a little Monday night.
Boone Jenner scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period to lift the desperate Blue Jackets over the Florida Panthers 2-1, snapping their six-game losing streak.
"The simple execution, for me as a coach, watching these guys practice and play, generally comes easy," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "Right now, it's just not coming easy. Once we got that physicality and emotion, we just started to play."
The Blue Jackets started slow, persevered and for the first time in a long while, finally showed some consistency in many facets of their play. It helped that Florida, other than early in the game, didn't seem to have much hop.
Matt Calvert also scored for Columbus, which had won only two of its last 17 games to sink to the bottom of the NHL standings after starting the season by winning four of six.
"I think when you are on a losing streak like this, you just keep battling and battling," Calvert said. "You want to stay as positive as you can, but frustration seeps in. I thought we did a great job of staying up the whole game and played a full 60."
Aaron Ekblad had the lone goal for Florida, still seeking its first three-game winning streak of the season. The Panthers have lost nine in a row to Columbus.
"We were flat and didn't have a good jump like we did the other night," first-year Florida coach Gerard Gallant said, referring to his club's 46 shots in a 3-2 win over Ottawa. "We're not going to win that many games when we're that flat. It wasn't one line. It was the whole group."
With the score tied at 1 in the third, Jenner lunged to the ice to jam home the rebound of rookie Kerby Rychel's spin-around shot for his second goal of the season at 10:05. Jenner quickly jumped to his skates with a huge smile and hugged his converging linemates.
"It was a great play by him to get in front of the net," Rychel said. "I was just trying to get it on the net. He crashed the net and made a really good play."
Moments later, Sergei Bobrovsky, who finished with 24 saves, went right to left to kick aside Tomas Fleischmann's snap shot.
The Panthers had a face off in the Columbus zone with 10.3 seconds remaining, but after the draw they couldn't get the puck out from behind the net.
"Some nights you don't have your best game and you still have a chance to win," Gallant said. "We did that tonight."
Florida did dominate most of the first period, but it was Columbus that scored first. Pivoting in the corner, Michael Chaput sent the puck to Calvert, who made an in-tight, forehand-to-backhand move to tuck it behind Al Montoya at 15:07 for his third. Montoya had 21 stops.
"We need to get pucks to the net," Calvert said. "I think it all starts with the forecheck so we can get on our cycle."
The Panthers wasted little time drawing even in the second period. Maneuvering at the point on the power play, Ekblad fired a shot past a screened Bobrovsky just 1:23 in for his third.
At the tail end of the period, the Blue Jackets withstood rapid-fire pressure from Florida and then almost had a prime chance themselves going the other away. Bobrovsky stopped Tomas Kopecky's uncontested shot from the slot and paddled away Kopecky's follow-up shot. The Blue Jackets entered the zone on a 2-on-1, but Dmitry Kulikov broke it up by diving to his stomach.
"The guys stepped up tonight," Richards said. "This feeling of winning is way better than losing."
NOTES: Rychel, a 2013 first-round draft pick, earned his first NHL point in his second game. ... G Roberto Luongo is expected to start for the Panthers on Tuesday in Detroit. He also sat out Florida's previous game with an arm injury. ... Columbus played its first game without C Artem Anisimov, who tore a triceps muscle Saturday and will miss two to three months. ... Gallant was a Blue Jackets assistant coach (2000-2004) and then went 56-76-4-6 as the head coach (2004-2006). ... The Panthers entered with the second-fewest goals (45) in the NHL, while Columbus was tied for third-fewest (52).
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