PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Sergei Bobrovsky stuck it to his former team, then gave his stick a few extra shakes in celebration toward the jeering crowd.
Back on familiar ice, Bobrovsky made himself quite at home.
Bobrovsky stopped 37 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, leading the Columbus Blue Jackets to their first win in Philadelphia, 2-0 over the Flyers on Thursday night.
“It’s something special,” Bobrovsky said. “It’s tough to explain.”
James Wisniewski and Brandon Dubinsky each scored goals for the Blue Jackets, who were 0-5-1 in Philadelphia since the franchise’s inception in 2000.
Led by Bobrovsky, a former Flyer, the Blue Jackets moved closer to clinching their second-ever playoff berth. They closed within two points of the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
“We’re in a good position,” Dubinsky said. “It’s not like where we were last year when we had to continue to watch and hope and chase teams. We’re right where we want to be.”
The Flyers have lost three straight games and were shut out for the second straight time. They haven’t scored a goal in 130 minutes, 25 seconds, dating back to a third-period goal on March 30 against Boston.
Flyers coach Craig Berube said the offense simply didn’t test Bobrovsky enough, especially in the third.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting shots through, get rebounds,” he said.
Wisniewski snapped a scoreless tie with his seventh goal of the season late in the second period. He finished off a Columbus attack that saw at least three shots on Steve Mason before he was able to slide in the puck with 6 seconds left on the power play.
Dubinsky appeared to kick in the puck early in the third to make it 2-0.
The Blue Jackets are about as automatic as it gets in the NHL with a lead after two periods: They improved to 27-2-4 with a two-period lead.
“We’re going to keep climbing,” Bobrovsky said.
The interesting matchup was the one between the pipes: Mason vs. Bobrovsky.
Mason had it all figured out in Columbus when he went 33-20-7 with 10 shutouts and won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2008-09, the only season the Blue Jackets have made the playoffs.
But Mason and Columbus could never recapture that fleeting success again. He fell to 20 wins and five shutouts the next season, and bottomed out in 2011-12 with a 16-26-3 mark. Mason lost his job to Bobrovsky, the former Flyer who blossomed into last season’s Vezina Trophy winner.
Mason, who had 25 saves, was traded to the Flyers at the end of last season and became the No. 1 goalie after they bought out Ilya Bryzgalov’s contract.
Bobrovsky was expendable because Bryzgalov signed a nine-year deal and was supposed to anchor the net as Philadelphia chased its first Stanley Cup championship since 1975. Bryzgalov’s quirky personality and sometimes brutal honesty with the media didn’t always endear him to teammates and he lasted only two seasons.
Mason and Bobrovsky are now leading playoff pushes for both organizations. Bobrovsky made 17 saves in the second period and the Blue Jackets defense kept the punchless Flyers out of the zone for most of the third.
“We know it means a lot for him to be back here in Philly,” Dubinsky said. “When you get traded from a team, it always feels good to go into the building and beat them. He was huge. He gave us an opportunity when we weren’t at our best in the first.”
The Flyers need to rediscover their offense over the final games if they want to make any kind of deep postseason run.
“I don’t think you can start pressing the panic button or anything like that, but we definitely need to get harder, especially in front of their end,” forward Scott Hartnell said.
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