Brown, Bobrovsky lead Panthers over Blue Jackets, 4-1Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Andrew Peeke, left falls to the ice as he goes for the puck against Florida Panthers center Vincent Trocheck (21) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- Sergei Bobrovsky beat his former team in their first meeting.
''It's definitely a great win. It's kind of weird to face your former teammates trying to score on you,'' Bobrovsky said. ''It's a different feeling definitely but I'm so happy to get the two points.''
Bobrovsky signed with the Panthers on July 1 after playing the previous seven seasons with Columbus.
Bobrovsky had not started the previous two games.
''I had time to reset and refocus, calm down and just do my thing,'' Bobrovsky said.
Panthers coach Joel Quenneville was pleased with Bobrovsky's performance.
''I liked everything about his game today,'' he said. ''There was a lot of focus on him and a lot of attention. It was a great response.''
Florida had lost four of its previous five games. The Panthers beat Columbus for the first time in eight games.
''We need a big play at a key time. We don't get it,'' coach John Tortorella said. ''I think we're playing good hockey, but we don't finish and it's the same result. You're done.''
The Panthers stretched their lead to 3-0 on Connolly's power-play goal. Keith Yandle shot from the point and the puck hit Connolly and got past Merzlikins, who was screened on the play by Connolly, at 6:09 of the third. Connolly has seven goals in his past 11 games.
''I didn't see it. They told me it hit his knee,'' Merzlikins said.
Gavrikov closed the score to 3-1 when his shot from the point beat Bobrovsky with 9:26 left in the third.
''It was a great screen, I tried to find a spot and I did,'' Gavrikov said.
Hoffman flipped the puck from near the red line over the defense for an empty-netter with 2:23 left to make it 4-1.
''You have to find a way to breakthrough and find a way to get going,'' Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. ''We have to have that mindset in here or it's going to be a long season.''
The Panthers scored 18 seconds in when Dadonov redirected a shot from the point by Yandle under Merzlikins' pads. Yandle has 19 assists in his past 17 games.
Brown made the score 2-0 when he took a cross-ice pass from Barkov and put the puck between Merzlikins' pads at 8:53 of the second.
Notes: Panthers C Aleksi Saarela made his NHL debut after being recalled from AHL Springfield on Friday. ... Blue Jackets D Andrew Peeke, a South Florida native, played his second game after his NHL debut on Thursday. ... D Zach Werenski was placed on injured reserve Friday with an upper-body injury, retroactive to Nov. 30.
Blue Jackets: At Washington on Monday night.
Panthers: Host San Jose on Sunday.