- Associated Press - Saturday, January 14, 2017

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Panthers again got the better of the NHL’s best team.

Jaromir Jagr scored early in the third period, helping lead the Panthers past the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 on Saturday night.

With the Panthers leading 3-2, Jagr slid in a loose puck behind Joonas Korpisalo for his eighth goal of the season 1:27 into the third.

The play was started on a rush from Vincent Trocheck, who put a shot on goal and watched Jared McCann first take a swing at it before Jagr netted the eventual winner.

“He did it last year. There was a part of the season I thought he was our best player and it was a smart decision from management to sign him for long term,” said Jagr of Trocheck, who earlier this week was named Florida’s lone representative for the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

“I really like him. He deserves everything he’s got. He worked very hard.”

The Panthers are 15-2-5 in games when Trocheck scores a point.

Shawn Thornton, Trocheck and Jonathan Marchessault also scored for Florida, and Trocheck, Aaron Ekblad, Jason Demers and Jakub Kindl had assists. James Reimer made 30 saves.

Columbus is 18-4-1 in its last 23 games, with two of the losses coming to the Panthers.

“I thought we played a good game against the best team in the league right now,” Florida coach Tom Rowe said. “They’ve been playing unbelievable and they’re a big, strong, physical team and every shift they’re coming at you.

“I thought it was real good that our guys stuck in there and hung in there and did a great job.”

Boone Jenner scored his eighth of the season for Columbus at 6:17 to cut the deficit to 4-3, but the Blue Jackets couldn’t tie it.

Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson also had goals for the Blue Jackets, Seth Jones had a pair of assists, and Ryan Murray had one.

Korpisalo, playing in his second consecutive game in place of regular starter Sergei Bobrovsky, had 28 saves.

Trocheck tied it at 2 in the second when he sent a wrist shot in from the goal line to Korpisalo’s left. The bad-angle shot hit the goalie on the near post and barely slid over the line for the center’s 14th goal at 8:24.

Marchessault stole a puck from Markus Nutivaara on the forecheck and deked Korpisalo for his 13th goal at 10:46 and a 3-2 Florida lead, giving the Panthers two goals in 2:22 and swinging momentum to the Panthers.

Hartnell didn’t lay the blame on Korpisalo, who played a strong game in the team’s 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on Friday.

“Korpi stood on his head yesterday versus a pretty hungry Tampa Bay team. I’m sure he’s frustrated a little bit,” Hartnell said. “You never want to see those goals go in, but we try our darnedest to pick our teammate up. Tonight, we couldn’t get one late, but it’s definitely not on Korpi.”

Columbus coach John Tortorella didn’t sugarcoat the Trocheck goal or Nutivaara’s turnover.

“That’s a bad goal - the one on the goal line. Where the game changes is on a bad goal, then we gift-wrap one on a turnover,” Tortorella said. “Korpi’s got to have the one on the goal line. It’s just a bad goal.”

Thornton scored his first goal of the season at 8:22 of the first period when he one-timed a cross-ice pass from Ekblad into a wide-open net.

Hartnell tied it at 1 when he tipped in a long shot by Murray on the power play at 10:57 for his 11th goal.

Atkinson gave Columbus a 2-1 lead at 18:10 when he stole a clearing attempt through the middle of the ice and blasted in his team-leading 21st goal.

The Panthers won the only other meeting between the two clubs, also in South Florida, in a 2-1 shootout win on Nov. 26.

Columbus beat Tampa Bay three days later in its next game, then proceeded to win the following 15 games in its league-best 16-game winning streak.

NOTES: With the Blue Jackets returning to Ohio after the game, Columbus sent Bobrovsky (ill) home on Saturday after missing the previous two contests. The club added Anton Forsberg on goaltender emergency conditions. … Thornton’s goal was his first in 50 games and marked the 100th point of his career. … Interim coach Tom Rowe entered having coached 22 games for Florida - the same number as former coach Gerard Gallant, who was fired by the Panthers on Nov. 27 after a 3-2 loss at Carolina. Rowe now is 9-7-7 through 23 games, while Gallant was 11-10-1 this season before being fired. … Florida scratched centers Greg McKegg and Seth Griffith, who played wing on the top line in Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Islanders. … The teams meet for the final time on March 16 in Columbus.

UP NEXT

Blue Jackets: Host Carolina on Tuesday night to start a three-game homestand featuring two against the Hurricanes, who play Columbus three times in 11 days.

Panthers: At Calgary on Wednesday night to open a four-game road trip.

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