|Columbus Blue Jackets' Aaron Johnson (5) checks Florida Panthers' Scottie Upshsll, left, during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Friday, March 30, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)|
Nikitin, Umberger lead Blue Jackets past Panthers
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Defenseman Nikita Nikitin scored twice and had an assist, R.J. Umberger also had two goals, and Allen York made 30 saves in the Columbus Blue Jackets' 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
Nikitin followed a two-assist game in a victory over Detroit on Wednesday night with goals in the second and third periods. Umberger scored in the first and added an empty-netter with 47 seconds to play.
Tomas Kopecky spoiled York's shutout bid, scoring off a rebound with 7:57 left in the third.
York made 29 saves against Detroit for his first NHL win in eight games and was stellar against Florida.
The Panthers, coming off an overtime loss Thursday night at Minnesota, were unable to put distance between themselves and idle Washington in the Southeast Division. Florida, looking for its first division title, has a four-point lead over the Capitals. The Panthers also are four points behind Boston for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Blue Jackets, assured of the worst record in the NHL, are 13-13-1 in the past 27 games.
Columbus spent 20 percent of the first period killing penalties yet had the lead on Umberger's goal -- his second in two games -- at 3:41. He played give-and-go and was on the receiving end of the final pass by Derick Brassard that went through the low slot to catch Jose Theodore leaning the other way.
Florida then squandered a two-man advantage for 1:40 of the opening period. The Panthers managed seven shots during the stretch, but York kept his composure and got a key block by defenseman Aaron Johnson.
The Blue Jackets made it 2-0 at 11:48 of the second on Nikitin's wrist shot on a power play.
Nikitin took a pass from Mark Letestu along the blue line and used a screen by Derek Dorsett to sneak the puck through bodies, although it appeared to be deflected. Nikitin was initially credited with the goal before it was given to Dorsett, then reversed.
NOTES: Umberger has six goals and two assists in the past five games, including a hat trick March 23 against Carolina. ... The Blue Jackets honored members of the Columbus Chill of the East Coast Hockey League from 1991-99 on the start of the franchise 20 seasons ago. ... Florida forward Mikael Samuelsson (lower body) returned to the lineup after sitting the loss in Minnesota. ... The Panthers finished 5-7-2 in back-to-back games this season and were swept for the fifth time.