Atkinson, Panarin lead Blue Jackets over Predators 5-2
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Cam Atkinson equaled a Blue Jackets franchise record for goals scored, but he knows there’s much more to accomplish.
Atkinson scored twice and Artemi Panarin had four assists to lead Columbus to a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night for the Blue Jackets’ fourth straight win.
Atkinson’s 41 goals tie a franchise high set by Rick Nash during the 2003-04 season.
“It’s a cool accomplishment, for sure,” Atkinson said. “There are still some big games left, but I’m not done. What I bring is when I score, I help the team win and hopefully I can get some more before the regular season ends.”
David Savard, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Boone Jenner also had goals, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves for Columbus, which maintained its hold on the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Matt Duchene added two assists.
“It felt good,” Duchene said. ”(Panarin) made some unbelievable plays tonight and Cam did what he does, so it’s fun. I thought we had all four lines going tonight. We had everyone pulling in the right direction.”
Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg scored for Nashville, which had its two-game winning streak stopped.
One night after an impressive road win in Pittsburgh, the Predators didn’t match the effort of the desperate Blue Jackets.
“Last night, definitely. Today, I don’t think it was good enough,” Forsberg said. “No excuses, like I said. Columbus is a good team. They played well tonight. Our game has to be better on Tuesday.”
Atkinson scored the game’s first goal 50 seconds after the opening faceoff. From the high slot, Panarin sent a pass to Atkinson at the right faceoff dot, where he sent a wrist shot by Nashville’s Juuse Saros for his 40th of the season.
Saros made 27 saves after he was scratched from the lineup Friday night in Pittsburgh due to an illness.
Arvidsson tied it at 1 at 8:50 of the first with a short-handed goal. Columbus’ Josh Anderson could not control the puck in the neutral zone, and Arvidsson pounced on the turnover going the other way on a breakaway against Bobrovsky. Arvidsson fired a wrist shot from the high slot by Bobrovsky on the stick side. The goal was Arvidsson’s 33rd this season, equaling a Nashville franchise record.
Savard made it 2-1 at 15:58 of the first on a delayed penalty against the Predators.
Bjorkstrand scored with 2.5 seconds remaining in the first.
Bobrovsky stopped a point-blank chance by Nashville’s Colton Sissons with 12 seconds left in the period, and then Panarin led the puck up ice before finding Bjorkstrand in the right circle, where he scored his 20th of the season with a wrist shot high to the glove side.
Forsberg’s goal at 12:14 of the second briefly closed Nashville’s deficit to one, but Jenner scored 1:14 later to give the Blue Jackets another two-goal advantage.
“Jenner’s is a huge goal,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “We get scored on, we don’t want the puck in the neutral zone, they ended up coming back down, they score. To answer right away there, it just gets the momentum right back on our side.”
Atkinson’s second of the night came at 15:46 of the second.
Saros stopped Atkinson on a penalty shot with 4:47 remaining in the game, denying his attempt for a hat trick.
NOTES: Panarin’s 56 assists on the season established a Columbus franchise record. ... Nashville D Dante Fabbro made his NHL debut. Fabbro, the 17th overall pick in the 2016 Entry Draft, signed with the Predators earlier this week after completing his junior season at Boston University. ... Arvidsson extended his scoring streak to three games. ... Bjorkstrand has scored in four consecutive games. ... Columbus is 31-7-2 when scoring first this season.
Blue Jackets: At Buffalo on Sunday night.
Predators: At Buffalo on Tuesday night.