COLUMBUS, Ohio – By the end, a crowd of 16,008 was chanting his nickname.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves and Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets past Carolina 3-0 on Friday night, ending the Hurricanes’ season-best five-game winning streak.
“Bob was the Bob we’ve grown to love,” teammate Brandon Dubinsky said.
Boone Jenner and Dubinsky also scored for the Blue Jackets, who have won three of four. And Nathan Horton contributed in his first home game in a Columbus uniform.
But make no mistake about it: Bobrovsky stole the show.
“He was in his game today,” said Carolina’s Justin Faulk. “He’s obviously a good goalie. He’s proven himself in this league.”
Horton, a big-money free-agent signing last season who missed the first 40 games after shoulder surgery, raved about Bobrovsky.
“He showed why he’s one of the best goalies in the game,” Horton said. “It’s great for us to have him.”
Bobrovsky, who picked up his second shutout of the season, was making his first home start in more than a month. He missed 14 games with a strained groin before winning at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers on Monday night, 4-3 in a shootout.
He said the key was concentrating.
“To be honest, I almost don’t remember my saves tonight,” he said. “I make one, then I try to be focused on the next.”
Last year’s Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goalie was in fine form. He stopped Elias Lindholm twice on jam shots at the corner post during more than a minute of a 5-on-3 for Carolina in the third period. While the Hurricanes were pressing on the remaining power play, he gloved a hard shot from the high slot by Zach Boychuk—and held his glove high in the air for several seconds while the crowd roared.
The crowd chanted, “Bob! Bob!” throughout the final few minutes.
“Our goalie energized the building in the third period with some of his saves,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “That is a little reminiscent of last season.”
Bobrovsky, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia 18 months ago, went 21-11-6 while leading a late-season charge last spring that brought the Blue Jackets within a tiebreaker of making the playoffs.
“When he’s playing like that, it gives us a chance to win every single night,” Atkinson said.
The Blue Jackets moved to 20-20-4 with the win.
Carolina’s Anton Khudobin had been the hottest goalie in the league. He came in with a record of 6-0-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. He had allowed two or fewer goals in six of his seven games—then gave up two in the first period.
The Hurricanes’ Brett Sutter gathered a loose puck in the corner but Horton hit him and forced a turnover to Jenner. The rookie was all alone in the slot and went high on the stick side of Khudobin for his sixth goal of the year at the 15-minute mark.
Just 70 seconds later, the Blue Jackets struck again. This time Atkinson carried the puck through the neutral zone and then slid a pass to Dubinsky on the left wing. His rising shot from the left dot beat Khudobin inside the far post. It was Dubinsky’s ninth of the year.
Atkinson had also saved a goal when he got a stick on Jeff Skinner’s wraparound midway through the first 20 minutes.
He then picked up a goal of his own at 5:54 of the third when he took a feed from Mark Letestu and found the net from the left hash for his 12th goal.
The Hurricanes had piled up a season-high in goals while beating Toronto 6-1 on Thursday night at home. But Bobrovsky stifled everything that came at him, capping the shutout with a sprawling glove save on Nathan Gerbe with just over 2 minutes left.
“We had one or two breakdowns and they capitalized and scored goals,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “They’re a good team. They play a good system and they don’t give up much.”
NOTES: Columbus C Derek MacKenzie was sitting out the final game of a three-game suspension for boarding Phoenix’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson. … It was the second of five meetings this season, with the Blue Jackets winning on Dec. 23 in Raleigh, 4-3. … The Blue Jackets improved to 9-6-0 against Carolina, including 5-2-0 at home. … The teams have never gone to overtime in their 15 games. … Former Stanley Cup-winning goalie Cam Ward missed his fifth straight game for the Hurricanes with a lower-body injury.
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