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Wennberg scores 3 as Panthers beat Blue Jackets 5-2

Oliver Bjorkstrand and Zach Werenski scored for Columbus.
Credit: AP
Florida Panthers right wing Patric Hornqvist (70) shoots on Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Alex Wennberg had his first career hat trick as the Florida Panthers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Saturday night.

MacKenzie Weegar and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and an assist, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 44 shots to help the Panthers win their season-high fifth straight.

In his first game back after a six-game absence, Panthers’ No. 1 center Aleksander Barkov tallied the primary assist on Weegar’s goal.

Florida honored Bobrovsky for his 500th NHL game – played Feb. 10, 2020, in Philadelphia – in a pregame ceremony, and the Russian goalie improved to 5-1-1 against his former club.

Oliver Bjorkstrand and Zach Werenski scored for Columbus. Elvis Merzlikins made 22 saves through two periods but was replaced by Joonas Korpisalo, who stopped 12 shots in the third.

After a scoreless first period, Barkov found himself right in the middle of a hard-working cycle in the second and sent a slick pass through the slot to Weegar at 3:57.

Signed as a free agent after playing six seasons in Columbus, Wennberg scored 52 seconds later by finishing a 2-on-1 pass from Vatrano.

Then he added his second of the night from the left circle at 8:47 for a 3-0 lead.

In the third, Bjorkstrand’s putback cut it to 3-1 at 2:46, but Vatrano regained the three-goal margin at 10:54 with a rebound tally on Owen Tippett’s breakaway.

After Werenski scored, Wennberg complete the hat trick into an empty-net for his 11th with 7 seconds left.