PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Justin Danforth scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period, Elvis Merzlikins stopped 47 shots and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 Tuesday night to end a seven-game skid.

Sean Kuraly added an empty-netter for Columbus in the final seconds.

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The Blue Jackets last won March 19 and let their playoff hopes all but disappear over the last three weeks.

The game was full of firsts for two teams who have gone with a youth movement as they play out the string and wait for the season to mercifully end.

Brendan Gaunce scored his fifth goal of the season thanks to Carson Meyer’s first NHL assist. Meyer then beat Carter Hart off a 2-on-1 rush for his first career goal with 6:37 left in the first period.

Meyer grew up in suburban Columbus, played at Ohio State and skated in his first NHL game a night earlier in an overtime loss against Boston. He was the eighth Blue Jacket to make his NHL debut this season.

“Just the chance to put on that jersey in front of my whole family and friends (in Columbus) was special for me and I know it was just as special for my parents,” he said before the game. “The first one is tough. There’s so much emotionally going on. You’ve waited your whole life for it. You can’t deny there’s a bit of nervousness and jitters and so much to think about. Now I’ve got my first one out of the way, hopefully I can relax and settle down.”

NHL goal No. 1 certainly calms the nerves.

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Noah Cates broke through with his first NHL goal for the Flyers late in the period to cut it to 2-1. The Flyers selected Cates in the fifth round of the 2017 draft, but he elected to stay in school. He joined the Flyers last week after Minnesota-Duluth was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. He led the school to the 2019 national championship and had 99 points in 139 NCAA games.

Cates was named the alternate captain for Team USA at the Olympics.

“It’s been a lifelong dream to score that goal and it was a pretty big goal for us,” Cates said. “We’ve been playing pretty well this period and to get on the board is huge.”

The Flyers tied it at 2 in the second on James van Riemsdyk’s 18th goal of the season. The assist went to Ronnie Attard for his first NHL point.

That marked four straight goals with a first NHL assist or goal.

The Flyers pulled Hart with 1:48 left and not even the man advantage could help them avoid their 48th loss of what is going down as the worst season in franchise history.


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The Flyers play Thursday at Columbus.