Ryan Johansen dropped to one knee early in the third period last night, launching a highlight-reel goal that shot the Blue Jackets past the Florida Panthers and into a first-round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins. A 3-2 win before 14,241 at the BB&T Center locked the Blue Jackets into seventh place and the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, assuring them of a series against the No. 2-seeded Penguins. “I’m just excited for the opportunity to play in the playoffs,” coach Todd Richards said. “It’s something you have to earn, and our players went out and earned it this year. And now we get to face one of the premier teams in the league.” The Blue Jackets were 0-5 against Pittsburgh this season. “That just makes me more excited to get a win against them,” Johansen said. “It would be cool if we could go into their building and grease those two wins, but by no means is it going to be easy.” The NHL is expected to announce the first-round dates and times tonight. The Blue Jackets went into last night’s game knowing they couldn’t catch Philadelphia for third place in the Metropolitan Division because the Flyers locked it down with an afternoon win over Pittsburgh. But the Jackets needed a win to avoid sliding to eighth place in the East and a first-round matchup with Boston. “We really wanted to finish the season on a good note and go into the playoffs the right way,” Johansen said. The win gave the Blue Jackets 43 wins and 93 points in the standings, both franchise records. Afterward, the dressing room was filled with tired, relieved players and coaches. “The sense of relief is that we got through the game healthy,” Richards said. “I really liked our first period. I really didn’t like our second period. We played better in the third. “You have to remind yourself as a coach of the stretch we just went through. That’s eight games in 12 days and before that seven in 12, so that’s 15 games in 24 days. That’s a lot.” The Blue Jackets got goals from Cam Atkinson, Mark Letestu and Johansen, who finished the season with 33 goals and 30 assists. Atkinson scored only 47 seconds into the game, but the Panthers made it interesting well into the third. At 5:58, with the Blue Jackets on the power play, defenseman James Wisniewski fired the puck from the right point to Johansen, who was alone low in the left circle. As the puck neared, he dropped to a knee and ripped it past Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Blue Jackets 3 Panthers 2: Locked in at seven
Columbus Dispatch | Apr 13