VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -Rick Nash lived up to his role as both the Columbus Blue Jackets' leader and leading scorer.
The Columbus captain, back after missing four because of a knee injury, had a goal and two assists in regulation and scored the decisive shootout goal in the Blue Jackets' wild 6-5 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.
"There's a reason he's the captain," Columbus newcomer Jason Williams said. "He's not the most vocal guy, but he leads by example ad his work ethic and he did both tonight."
Williams also scored in regulation and the shootout as the Blue Jackets overcame a two-goal deficit late in the second period, then recovered after blowing a two-goal lead of their own early in the third
Nash sparked Columbus' comeback late in the second period, helping to set up Williams' power-play goal with 3 minutes left, then tying it at 3 on a wraparound 2 minutes later. Mike Commodore and Raffi Torres then scored 55 seconds apart early in the third to give the Blue Jackets a 5-3 lead.
The Canucks called a timeout and quickly tied it again on goals by Henrik Sedin, on a power play, and Kevin Bieksa 90 seconds apart. The second one went in off Nash as he tried to tie up Mats Sundin at the side of the net, making shootout redemption - on a shot past Roberto Luongo's blocker - even sweeter.
"It was just a bad break, but that's the beauty of the game," said Nash, who leads Columbus with 18 goals and 42 points. "It was nice to get that winner."
Manny Malhotra also scored, and Kristian Huselius had two assists as the Blue Jackets won for the fourth time in five games to move just two points back of the slumping Canucks for seventh in the Western Conference.
"It was tough back and forth, they got a couple of lucky ones, off my body and things like that but we stuck with it and showed our character," Nash said.
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't even sure about sending Williams out in the shootout, not with his right eye almost swollen shut after a high stick midway through the third period that required stitches under the eyebrow.
"The problem was he only had one eye," Hitchcock said of Williams, who was playing his second game after being acquired last week in a trade with Atlanta. "I asked him if he could see and he said he could, so I let him go."
Steve Mason, who came into the game with the NHL's best goals-against average (1.81) and second-best save percentage (.936), was beaten five times on 30 shots. But the 20-year-old rookie stopped Kyle Wellwood's shot and forced Sundin to shoot wide in the shootout, improving to 17-10-1 this season.
Luongo, playing his second game after missing almost two months with a groin injury, made 23 saves before Williams and Nash beat him in the shootout.
"It was pretty cool to go up against him, growing up he was somebody I liked watching," Mason said. "But it wasn't a great game for either one of us."
Sundin, Taylor Pyatt and Steve Bernier also scored for the Canucks, who recorded their only point in a five-game homestand (0-4-1). They fell to 1-6 in shootouts this season, and have just two wins in their last 10 games overall.
Vancouver also lost forward Pavol Demitra to a second-period groin injury
"Momentum is a funny thing," said coach Alain Vigneault. "I really liked the way we played there for 35 minutes. For a period there 6 minutes we gave them a few chances and they scored four goals."
Nash got off to a quick start after being out almost two weeks, setting up Malholtra midway through the first period. Malhotra went unchecked to the net to tap Nash's centering pass through Luongo's legs after combining with linemate Huselius on some pretty tic-tac-toe passing into the offensive zone.
Nash was stopped on a breakaway 2:30 into the second period, and Sundin gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead on a 2-on-1 down low 41 seconds later. Bernier made it 3-1 midway through the period before Nash helped spark a Columbus comeback.
Defenseman Kris Russell took a pass from Nash, faked a shot from the point that dropped Luongo to the ice, and slipped the puck over to Williams.
Williams one-timed a shot before Luongo recovered as Columbus converted its first advantage of the game with 2:56 left in the second period.
"He's been a great addition," said Nash, who tied it on a wraparound with 1:01 left in the period. "Power play, we need the help there."
Commodore wired a shot past Luongo after he lost his goal stick 1:16 into the third period and Torres, playing his second game since missing 19 after knee surgery, banged in his own rebound of a wraparound less than a minute later.
"Obviously, we all know Roberto can play better," Vigneault said. "He's a key ingredient to the success of our team."
Notes: To make room for Nash's return, Columbus sent Craig MacDonald, who had a goal and an assist in eight games, down to Syracuse of the American Hockey League earlier in the day. ... G Wade Dubielewicz, who was claimed off waivers from the New York Islanders after spending the first half of the season in Russia, joined the Blue Jackets in Vancouver late Saturday night and backed up Sunday. Vancouver played its 3,000th game in franchise history.
|Taylor Pyatt (5) ASST: Henrik Sedin (35), Daniel Sedin (25)|
1 - 0 VAN
|Manny Malhotra (6) ASST: Rick Nash (23), Kristian Huselius (17)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Mats Sundin (2) ASST: Pavol Demitra (12), Jannik Hansen (14)|
2 - 1 VAN
|Steve Bernier (11) ASST: Ryan Kesler (16), Alexandre Burrows (12)|
3 - 1 VAN
|PPG - Jason Williams (8) ASST: Kris Russell (8), Rick Nash (24)|
3 - 2 VAN
|Rick Nash (18) ASST: Michael Peca (9), Kristian Huselius (18)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Mike Commodore (4) ASST: R.J. Umberger (11), Jan Hejda (7)|
4 - 3 CBJ
|Raffi Torres (2) ASST: Jared Boll (6)|
5 - 3 CBJ
|PPG - Henrik Sedin (8) ASST: Alexander Edler (15), Kevin Bieksa (18)|
5 - 4 CBJ
|Kevin Bieksa (6) ASST: Willie Mitchell (13)|
5 - 5 Tie
|1||K. Wellwood||J. Williams||0 - 1|
|2||M. Sundin||R. Nash||0 - 2|
|Manny Malhotra Tripping against Ryan Kesler|
|R.J. Umberger Fighting against Ryan Kesler|
|Ryan Kesler Fighting against R.J. Umberger|
|Manny Malhotra Roughing against Alexandre Burrows|
|Alexandre Burrows Roughing against Manny Malhotra|
|Jason Williams Hooking against Alexandre Burrows|
|Rob Davison Misconduct against Derek Dorsett|
|Derek Dorsett Misconduct against Rob Davison|
|Rob Davison Roughing against Derek Dorsett|
|Derek Dorsett Roughing against Rob Davison|
|Kris Russell Slashing against Daniel Sedin|
|Jared Boll Fighting against Darcy Hordichuk|
|Darcy Hordichuk Fighting against Jared Boll|
|Jannik Hansen Tripping against Kris Russell|
|Freddy Modin Tripping against Kevin Bieksa|
|Rick Nash Roughing against Willie Mitchell|
|Willie Mitchell Roughing against Rick Nash|
|Kevin Bieksa Hooking against Kris Russell|