Sergei Bobrovsky, the Flyers' goalie of the past, outplayed Carter Hart, the team’s goalie of the future, and keyed Columbus' 4-3 win in a matinee Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.
Bobrovsky, the two-time Vezina winner as the league’s best goalie, made 34 saves -- including 15 in a Flyers-dominated final period -- and continued his dominance over his former team.
Hart, betrayed by his defense on the first three goals, suffered his first NHL loss after wins against Detroit and Nashville. Interim coach Scott Gordon (2-1) also absorbed his first defeat since replacing Dave Hakstol.
Bobrovsky, a prospective unrestricted free agent on July 1, is 13-3-1 with a goals-against average around 2.00 in his career against the Flyers, including a 3-0 record this season.
The Flyers, who had a 67-30 domination in shot attempts, will face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night and Michal Neuvirth is expected to make just his third start of the season and first since Dec. 9.
“We came off two hard-fought wins, and we played a game where we certainly had our fair share of chances and eliminated their amount of opportunities,” Gordon said. 'We should go to New York feeling confident about our game."
Cam Atkinson scored two goals, Artemi Panarin had three points, and Pierre-Luc Dubois collected three assists for Columbus, which is 4-0-1 in its last five games.
The Flyers outshot the Blue Jackets, 37-19.
“We carried the play a lot and obviously we made a few mistakes that ended up in our net,” left winger Jame van Riemsdyk said. “There are things we can clean up, but I think overall, we had a pretty good process.”
“If we can play like that, we’re going to win a lot more games than we lose,” said center Phil Varone, who scored his first goal with the Flyers and his first in the NHL in nearly three years. “I know it doesn’t show on the scoreboard, but you can take a lot of positives from this game.”
With Hart pulled for an extra skater, van Riemsdyk cut it to 4-3 by scoring on a wild scramble in front with 1 minute, 10 seconds to go, but the Flyers couldn’t get the equalizer.
Wayne Simmonds, skating down the right wing on an odd-man rush, was robbed by Bobrovsky with 9:35 left in regulation. The 30-year-old goalie made a diving save of Simmonds' right-circle blast to keep the Blue Jackets ahead, 4-2. Bobrovsky later made great power-play saves on Claude Giroux and Ivan Provorov.
Dubois' line dominated the unit of Simmonds (minus-2), Sean Couturier (minus-3), and Jake Voracek (minus-3).
Panarin, after Dubois won a draw from Couturier, fired a one-timer through Radko Gudas' legs and scored with 36.5 seconds left in the second period to increase Columbus' lead to 4-2.
“I didn’t really see it, but they tried that play earlier in the game, so that was kind of on me,” Hart said. “I have to be more aware on that one.”
With 6:37 to play in the second, the Jackets had made it 3-2 after Voracek was pushed to the ice at the Blue Jackets' offensive blue line, and Columbus went in on a two-on-zero break that ended with Atkinson’s second goal of the game and 22nd of the season.
Hart couldn’t be faulted for any of the first three goals.
“I felt sharp. Obviously, I’ve got to make a couple more saves," Hart said. "We didn’t give them much and when we did give them chances, they capitalized.”
About four minutes earlier, Hart made an acrobatic save on Atkinson, but the high-scoring right winger put in his own rebound to tie the game at 2-2 with 10:30 left in the second period. No defenseman picked him up.
The goal was scored 1:50 after Varone gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead. The fourth-line center was all alone as he pounced on a fat rebound of a shot taken by van Riemsdyk.
Earlier, the Flyers were going through another disorganized, uneventful power play when Couturier picked up a loose puck in the high slot and whipped a backhander past a screened Bobrovsky, knotting the game at 1-1 with 23 seconds left in the opening period -- and two seconds remaining with the extra skater.
It was just the Flyers' second power-play goal in their last 14 games. Despite having players with great power-play histories, they had been in a 1-for-31 drought with an extra skater.
Columbus had taken a 1-0 lead when Provorov, who looks like a shell of the player from his first two seasons, coughed up the puck and it led to Zach Werenski’s goal from the high slot with 4:55 remaining in the first period.