- Associated Press - Saturday, April 12, 2014

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - The Columbus Blue Jackets are looking forward to their second playoff appearance in franchise history.

Ryan Johansen scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and the Blue Jackets beat the Florida Panthers for the eighth straight time, 3-2 on Saturday night. Mark Letestu and Cam Atkinson also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky made 33 saves.

The Blue Jackets clinched the first wild-card spot and will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“Just excited for the opportunity to play in the playoffs. That’s something you have to earn and our players went and earned it this year,” Columbus coach Todd Richards’ said. “We’ve got the opportunity to play one of the premier teams in the league, a team that has talented players, they know how to win, they’re well-coached, and we get to go in their building.”

Columbus‘ previous playoff appearance was in 2009 when it was swept in four games by Detroit.

Philadelphia’s 4-3 overtime win over Pittsburgh earlier Saturday clinched third place in the Metropolitan Division for the Flyers and forced Columbus to the wild-card spot.

The Blue Jackets went 0-5 against the Penguins this season, losing all five in regulation.

“Half the guys wanted to play Pittsburgh. I think we owe them more than anything,” Atkinson said.

Johansen’s 33rd goal of the season, a one-timer from the left circle after taking a pass from James Wisniewski, got past Luongo at 5:58 of the third period to put Columbus ahead.

“When you get passes like that you really just have to hit the net,” Johansen said. “All the credit to Wis’ great vision hitting me down low there. Give them (Florida) credit, they played really hard tonight. I’m proud of the guys sticking with it and finally got two points.”

The Blue Jackets played eight games in the last 12 days; the last three on the road.

“The relief is that we got through the game healthy,” Richards said. “It was tough stretch that we just went through.When that happens, fatigue sets in and usually brains start not functioning in the right way, but we found a way to win the game.”

Jimmy Hayes and Vincent Trocheck scored for the Panthers. Roberto Luongo stopped 35 shots.

Hayes’ goal in the second period gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead. Hayes grabbed a loose puck in the Columbus zone, brought it down the boards on the right side and his shot from the right circle beat Bobrovsky at 6:35.

Columbus tied it at 2 on a power-play goal by Letestu at 10:13 of the second as his wrist shot from the right circle got to the net just as Luongo’s stick was knocked loose by a Columbus player.

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