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Jackets get crucial extra point in OT win vs. 'Canes

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen had a rather quiet start to his NHL career.

That is no longer the case.

The fourth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft scored his 30th goal of the season on the power play with 2:20 left in overtime as the Blue Jackets secured a crucial two points with a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.

Johansen came into the season with just 14 goals in his first 107 NHL games, but the 21-year-old became the 14th player in the league to hit the 30-goal plateau and appears poised to lead the Blue Jackets to the postseason for the first time since 2008-09.

"It's a great milestone for a young player," Columbus coach Todd Richards said of Johansen, who now has two game winners in the last six games. "Hopefully by the end of the season maybe it will be 35 goals."

Columbus (38-30-6) came into the game with 80 points (tied with Detroit, Toronto and Washington) and in seventh position in the Eastern Conference and was able to capitalize on Carolina's first penalty of the game when left winger Jiri Tlusty was called for closing his hand on the puck after a shot by center Brandon Dubinsky hit the post and Carolina goalie Anton Khudobin was scrambling out of the net.

It took Johansen less than a minute to score the winner from the slot, with his shot sneaking off the pads of Khudobin.

"What else do you want?" Johansen said of his wide open opportunity in prime scoring position after taking a pin-point pass off the boards from center Artem Anisimov, who also added his 20th of the season to send the game into OT. "That pass was unbelievable. I'm still surprised he gave me that perfect of a pass in the slot. I said to myself, 'I can't give this up, I better fire it.' Luckily it trickled in."

"It was a great play on the assist, the ability to spin, take the hit and make the play out of it," Richards said. "When you see Artem he seems to make all of his plays on his backhand. He scored the goal on the backhand. He took the hit to make the play; then he threw a perfect pass, right on the tape to beat two guys."

Carolina had the first three power plays of the game -- in the first 11 minutes of the third period -- before the Blue Jackets could muster a man-advantage opportunity in the OT.

"We were ready for it, we were waiting for that opportunity," Johansen said. "It's nice it was a 4-on-3 instead of a 5-on-4 as well. They kind of got two guys caught on the wall. And it was my 30th, that's pretty cool."

Carolina (32-33-9), playing just its second overtime game since Jan. 4, could have pulled within five points of a playoff spot with just eight games left with the win, but instead are now all but eliminated from the postseason for the fifth straight year.

"That was a tough play on the overtime winner," said Carolina center Eric Staal, who along with defenseman Justin Faulk failed to check Anisimov along the boards before his set-up to Johansen. "It is past frustrating now. We seem to just find ways to lose, whether it be a bounce, a quick breakdown or a battle."

After a scoreless first period, twice Carolina took a lead, only to see the one-goal advantage evaporate rather quickly.

Carolina center Andrei Loktionov scored a power-play goal -- his third in the last six games -- early in the third period to give the Hurricanes a short-lived 2-1 lead. Fifty seconds later, Khudobin allowed a rebound and defenseman John Michael Liles was unable to tie up Anisimov, who poked the puck into the net.

Carolina left winger Jeff Skinner was directly involved in the first two goals -- scored within 2:17 of each other late in the second period.

Skinner collected his own rebound from the slot and placed one high on Columbus goalie Curtis McElhinney for his team-leading 29th goal of the season and third in as many games.

On his next shift in his own zone, Skinner's pass from the boards to the center of the ice was intercepted by Blue Jackets left winger Matt Calvert, who quickly beat Khudobin. The Carolina goal was coming off his first shutout of the season.

McElhinney, who stopped 25 of 27 shots, was sharp early playing in place of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who was battling the flu and missed his second straight game.

"I was seeing pucks from the start," McElhinney said. "For the most part we eliminated most of their offense and kept them to the outside."

NOTES: Carolina G Anton Khudobin made a career-high 46 saves in the March 18 meeting between the two teams. ... Columbus LW R.J. Umberger, tied for sixth on the team in points at 33, was a healthy scratch for the third time in the last six games. ... Hurricanes C Eric Staal has not scored a power-play goal since Nov. 15 -- a span of 55 games. ... Carolina was shut out in the opening 20 minutes and its 38 first-period goals are the second-lowest total in the NHL, behind only Buffalo's 35. ... Hurricanes LW Jeff Skinner moved within one goal of his second 30-goal years in three full 82-game seasons. ... G Curtis McElhinney started consecutive games in net for Columbus for the first time since road games in early January.

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