COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Four months ago, Columbus Blue Jackets fans wanted the season to come to a merciful end. On Saturday night, they didn't want the players to leave the ice.
David Vyborny scored twice and had an assist in the third period to power Columbus to a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, giving the Blue Jackets a franchise record for points in a season.
The victory gave Columbus 72 points, erasing the mark in the Blue Jackets' inaugural season in 2000-01 when a collection of castoffs somehow collected 71 points.
"It's very nice to finish with the best-ever season here, especially after the bad start," Vyborny said. "We still have two more games left and we'll try our best to get 76 points."
Dan Fritsche and Rick Nash each had a goal and an assist and Mark Hartigan also scored for Columbus.
"It's nice breaking the record, but we're just trying to gain confidence for next year," coach Gerard Gallant said. "We are a much better team than 72 points."
A crowd of 16,555 gave the Blue Jackets a standing ovation for most of the final minute.
Chicago, which tied the game in the second period after falling behind 2-0 in the first, lost its fifth game in a row. Brandon Bochenski and Kyle Calder had the Blackhawks' goals.
"We had our chances," coach Trent Yawney said. "When it was tied we just didn't finish our chances off and they did. Pretty simple."
In a season that was ruined by an NHL-worst 9-25-1 start, the Blue Jackets have regained some respect around the league with their solid play in the second half by rebounding to go 25-17-3 since. They've also set team records this season for victories (34), home wins (22), road wins (12) and goals (215).
Despite those accomplishments, most of the players aren't overjoyed to be around 20 points out of the race for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs.
"Our goal was to make the playoffs - we're still unhappy we're not there," Nash said. "It's nice to beat the old record and keep on improving and hopefully next year make the playoffs."
The go-ahead goal came 9 seconds after a Chicago power play. On a rush, Fritsche left a drop pass for Vyborny who unloaded a hard one-timer from just above the left circle. The puck beat Nikolai Khabibulin high on the glove side at the 4:15 mark.
Vyborny's second goal came from almost the exact same spot as his first, only this one beat Khabibulin on the stick side with 5:57 remaining. Nash set up the goal with a centering pass from the left wing.
"The coaches told me after the second period to shoot more and I tried and I scored on two lucky shots," Vyborny said.
Vyborny then returned the favor to Nash by threading a pass past two defenders to Nash for his 30th of the season with 2:02 left.
It was Nash's return from knee and ankle injuries that heralded the Blue Jackets' turnaround just before the holidays. His assist tied his career high (22) and his goal allowed him to become the first player since Mario Lemieux in 2000-01 to score 30 goals in a season while playing fewer than 53 games.
Adam Foote's pass from the right boards glanced off the stick of Jody Shelley and went to Fritsche at the far post, who was sneaking in behind the cage and had an easy tap-in behind a surprised Khabibulin.
Hartigan then cleaned up after Khabibulin stopped Jaroslav Balastik's hard shot from the high slot.
Hartigan has seven goals and two assists in the last nine games - after scoring one goal with no assists in his first 21 starts this season.
Just 1:45 into the second, Mark Cullen skated behind the net and took a Columbus player with him, paving the way for Bochenski to score on a wraparound. Marc Denis appeared to have the shot stopped but Bochenski jammed it through Denis' skates.
Two minutes later, Calder stuck out his stick to score on a redirect of Jim Vandermeer's hard slap shot from just inside the blue line. Calder caught enough of the puck to send it just under the crossbar.
Notes: Columbus called up Ds Andy Delmore and Jamie Pushor from Syracuse (AHL) before the game to fill in for Duvie Westcott (head injury) and Rostislav Klesla (groin). ... Blackhawks LW Rene Bourque blocked a power-play one-timer by Delmore in the second period and had to be helped off the ice. ... There were only six minor penalties in the game.
|Dan Fritsche (6) ASST: Jody Shelley (7), Adam Foote (14)|
1 - 0 CBJ
|Mark Hartigan (8) ASST: Jaroslav Balastik (10), Jamie Pushor (2)|
2 - 0 CBJ
|Brandon Bochenski (8) ASST: Mark Cullen (8), Milan Bartovic (5)|
2 - 1 CBJ
|Kyle Calder (24) ASST: Jim Vandermeer (17), Radim Vrbata (23)|
2 - 2 Tie
|David Vyborny (19) ASST: Dan Fritsche (7), Jan Hrdina (23)|
3 - 2 CBJ
|David Vyborny (20) ASST: Rick Nash (22)|
4 - 2 CBJ
|Rick Nash (30) ASST: David Vyborny (40)|
5 - 2 CBJ
|Duncan Keith Hooking|
|Michal Barinka Tripping|
|Jaroslav Balastik Boarding against Danny Richmond|
|Mark Bell Cross checking against Jamie Pushor|
|Mark Cullen Tripping against David Vyborny|
|Jan Hrdina Tripping against Mark Bell|