Jackets close season by routing Islanders 7-3
Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 9:52 PM
A disappointing season for the Columbus Blue Jackets
ended on a happy note.
The Jackets closed out 2011-12 by pounding the New York Islanders
7-3, delighting a crowd of 17,652 at Nationwide Arena. Cam Atkinson
, who had a hat trick in Colorado on Thursday, scored two more goals for Columbus. Rick Nash
opened the scoring with his 30th of the season, James Wisniewski
and Vinny Prospal
each added a goal and two assists and R.J. Umberger
and Jack Johnson
made 35 saves for Columbus, which finished last in the overall standings despite ending with back-to-back wins. Rookie free agent Shane Hunwick, signed last week after the University of Michigan finished his season, played the last 2:33 in his NHL debut.
, Kyle Okposo
and Michael Grabner
scored for the Islanders, who haven't made the playoffs since 2007.
Nash has asked for a trade, and management has said it will try to deal him this summer. But the fans held up signs of support for him and clearly said thanks to him for his nine years as the face of the team.
"This was pretty special. They stuck with us all year," he said. "It was a disappointing year for us as a team. And it's not where we want to be right now. But they stuck with us and they were great tonight."
The Blue Jackets opened the season by going 0-7-1, but closed it by winning five of six and going 16-14-1 in their last 31 games. Todd Richards, who took over a team that was 11-25-5 under the fired Scott Arniel, led Columbus to an 18-21-2 record.
"The fans were excited. The players had fun. I might have been the only guy in the building probably who didn't have that much fun," said Richards, whose status as interim coach is one of the numerous decisions facing management this summer. "It was just the way the game went. It was a loosey-goosey game. You get that in Game 82 and the position that both teams were in. Our goaltender was great. To me, he was the difference in the game."
The Islanders, who finished fourth from the bottom in the overall standings with 79 points, remain the only NHL team that hasn't won in regulation at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets are 6-0-2 against New York at home.
Nash opened the scoring when he outmuscled defenseman Mark Streit
to jam the puck under Al Montoya
with 35.6 seconds left in the first period after the goaltender stopped Mark Letestu
It was Nash's 30th goal, marking the fifth season in a row and seventh time in his career he's hit that figure.
Atkinson scored twice in a four-goal second period that gave Columbus a 5-2 lead after 40 minutes.
"I feel like I've been playing pretty solid for the last 25 games I've been up here," Atkinson said. "Obviously I wasn't scoring or getting any assists or anything but I felt like I was playing pretty good defensively. It's nice to end the last stretch of games with some points."
Atkinson stepped in front of a pass by the Islanders' Josh Bailey
and skated up the left wing, pivoting near the top of the left circle and then unleashing a hard shot that beat Montoya inside the far post at 4:15.
Jurcina, a former Jacket, cut the lead in half three minutes later with a hard point shot. But the Blue Jackets made it 3-1 on a nifty play which featured two quick passes. Derick Brassard
dug the puck off the short boards and whisked a pass to Atkinson near the left edge of the trapezoid and he fed Umberger, who did waited before slipping the puck past Montoya.
The Islanders came right back to cut the deficit to a goal on Okposo's 24th, a quick wrister that caught the right post and went in off Mason's back.
The turning point came late in the second period when the Blue Jackets ended up with 1:11 of a 5-on-3 advantage after penalties to defensemen Andrew MacDonald
and Steve Staios
. Wisniewski scored during the two-man advantage and Atkinson fired home the rebound after Montoya stopped the defenseman's shot for a second power-play goal in a 43-second span.
"The first and second periods we had close to 18 chances and close to 40 shots and we couldn't score," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We were right there and then their two power-play goals killed us."
Columbus blew the game open with goals by Johnson and Prospal in the third before Grabner deflected Streit's shot past Mason for his 20th of the season.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.