Cam Atkinson sat and watched three of his teammates come up empty against Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff in the shootout, and when he got the nod from interim head coach Todd Richards, the fourth shooter was the last in a thrilling Blue Jackets win.
The rookie forward converted his first career shootout attempt, and it was the game-winning marker in Columbus’ 2-1 victory over the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight. Steve Mason, on in relief after Curtis Sanford left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury, made 28 saves and stopped all four Flame shooters in the shootout to preserve the win.
The Blue Jackets opened the scoring on Nikita Nikitin’s career-high fifth goal of the season at 13:03 of the first period. Darryl Boyce won a face-off in the offensive zone, and the puck came to Brett Lebda at the left point. Lebda fed it across to Nikitin, and the big Russian blue liner unleashed a rocket one-timer that beat Kiprusoff through the legs for a 1-0 lead.
For as dire as the Flames situation was coming into the game, it was a matter of time before they put on a rally of their own. Mason was there to douse them on every occasion but one, when Matt Stajan popped in a centering pass from a tight angle at the 8:34 mark of the final period. Blake Comeau and Curtis Glencross went work below the goal line, and the puck made its way to Stajan at the left post and he tapped it through Mason’s arm inside the post.
Rick Nash, Mark Letestu and Jack Johnson could not solve Kiprusoff in the shootout, but Atkinson provided the dramatics with a brilliant deke to his forehand. Kiprusoff bit on the fake and Atkinson had a yawning net to deposit the winner.
Mason’s performance throughout the game proved to be the backbone of the Blue Jackets’ win. Not only did he come in cold late in the first period, but he faced the bulk of Calgary’s push in the final 40 minutes and made several key stops down the stretch and into overtime.
The Blue Jackets snapped a four-game winless skid with tonight’s win. The club also improved to 5-4-1 its last 10 road games after going 0-6-1 the previous seven road games.
D Nikita Nikitin has goals in four of the last 14 games after scoring his fifth of the season tonight. The goals come after he went the previous 20 games without a goal. He has 3-6-9 the last 17 games after being held to 0-1-1 the previous seven games. He has set career highs in goals (5), assists (18), points (23) and games played (51).
D Brett Lebda has points in three of the last five games after notching an assist on Nikitin’s goal. He has 0-3-3 the last five games after being held point the previous 13 games and held without an assist the previous 17 games.
G Steve Mason stopped 28-of-29 shots in relief of Curtis Sanford tonight to earn the win. He has gone 8-4-1 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .922 save percentage the last 12 games after going 1-7-1 with a 3.73 goals against average and .880 save percentage the previous 10 games. He has also won five of his last six games.
RW Cam Atkinson scored the only goal of the shootout. It was his first shootout attempt, first shootout goal and first shootout game-deciding goal.
vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan FM & BlueJackets.com