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Atkinson's hat trick caps feel-good evening

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

On some nights, some guys simply have the hot stick, and that was certainly the case for Cam Atkinson last night against the Montreal Canadiens.

In the front-end of the team’s home-and-home series against Montreal, Atkinson scored three goals - the third on a 3-on-1 in the game's dying moments - to send hats flying from every and all directions at Nationwide Arena.

The hat trick was the third of Atkinson's career and his first on home ice.

“I’ve had a couple games in the past where I’ve had two goals and just haven’t found a way to bury it,” Atkinson said. “It’s nice to finally get one in front of the home crowd.”

“It was good for the crowd, obviously, to win at home first of all and get some big efforts,” associate coach Craig Hartsburg said after the game. “It was an exciting night for our group.”

Atkinson’s three goals came in each of the three periods: he scored his first goal at 14:40 of the first period, evening the score, 1-1, after Montreal opened the scoring on a 5-on-3.

The 26-year-old’s second tally came at 2:52 of the second period, sending an elusive backhand shot through traffic and past goaltender Mike Condon to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead.

Finally, at 19:35 of the third, when it seemed like he might not get another opportunity to score — he did just that.

Brandon Dubinsky carried the puck up the ice and, along with Boone Jenner and Atkinson, it became a 3-on-1 rush. Jenner fed the puck back to Dubinsky who then slid a cross-crease to Atkinson for the slam dunk.

“It was nice that (Hartsburg) threw my line out there," Atkinson said. "We just got an odd man rush and I was kind of smiling the whole way just because I knew at some point someone was going to try to get me the puck.”

Dubinsky and Jenner each had three assists, and with Atkinson formed what Hartsburg thought was a line that not only did the right things offensively, but also in their own zone.

“We need that shot of morale boost right there," Hartsburg said. "It’s been a tough grind for everybody, but tonight should make them all feel pretty happy."

Atkinson’s other two hat tricks came on Apr. 5, 2012 in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche, and on Mar. 27, 2015 at United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks.

In a game where his three goals ultimately made the difference, Atkinson praised his teammates for their solid performances.

“I thought we played a really good game,” Atkinson said. “I think all the lines were going, the (defensemen) were joining the rush. Obviously, (Joonas Korpisalo) played pretty solid. I’m sure he wanted the first two back, but he found a way to shut the door for us.

“We’re staying positive, and that’s all you can really do. We’re still at the bottom of the barrel and it would be easy for us to shut ‘er down, but you know we’re still trying to play for pride and play for our fans and hopefully do some damage the second half of the season.”

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