The Blue Jackets certainly did not want to end their season tonight, but if they had to draw the curtain on 2011-12, going out with a bang was at the top of the list. Mission accomplished.
Columbus took the ice to a thunderous roar from the Nationwide Arena crowd prior to the game, and was escorted off after 40 minutes with a standing ovation leading 5-2 over the New York Islanders. The Blue Jackets put together a solid, 60-minute effort on Fan Appreciation Night – winning their fifth game out of the last six by a 7-3 final in front of 17,652.
Cam Atkinson authored another chapter to his rookie-season story, netting a pair of goals to give him five in the last two games. He recorded his first career hat trick on Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche, and followed that with two huge goals tonight against the Islanders. Rick Nash opened the scoring with his team-leading 30th of the season at 19:24 of the first period, jamming home a rebound in the crease from Mark Letestu’s wrist shot. Islanders goalie Al Montoya thought he had the puck covered, but Nash found it and cashed the loose change.
Atkinson made it a 2-0 lead early in the second period off the rush, picking off a New York pass in the neutral zone and ripping a wrist shot high over Montoya’s glove hand. Milan Jurcina cut into the lead at 7:32 with a slap shot that eluded Steve Mason, but R.J. Umberger got it right back on a nifty dangle move at 11:12. Kyle Okposo struck back again to bring the Islanders within 3-2 at 13:11, but a pair of power-play goals late in the second period gave the Blue Jackets a commanding 5-2 lead.
James Wisniewski unleashed a one-timer set up by Vinny Prospal’s saucer pass at 18:48, and Atkinson made it a three-goal lead by putting back the rebound off a shot by Wisniewski at the side of the net with 29 seconds to play in the second period.
Jack Johnson and Prospal scored third-period goals to make it a 7-3 final score.
Okposo’s tally in the second period seemed to lift the Islanders, who started slow and got their legs underneath them about halfway through the game. The two quick strikes by the Blue Jackets (one on a two-man advantage, the other on the second half of the power play) effectively put the game out of reach, and they only added on in the third period.
LW Rick Nash scored his 30th goal of the season tonight. It marks the seventh time in his career and fifth-straight season that he has hit the 30-goal mark. He has points in seven of the last eight games (5-6-11) and has 6-6-12 the last 10 games after being held pointless the previous seven outings. In nine career games against the Islanders, he has 4-4-8.
RW Cam Atkinson has goals in back-to-back games after scoring his sixth and seventh goals of the season tonight. He snapped a 12-game goalless skid with a hat trick Thursday at Colorado. He added an assist on the night for his third multi-point outing his last four games. He has 5-5-10 the last six games after being held pointless the previous five games.
D James Wisniewski registered his sixth multi-point game of the season with a goal and two assists tonight. The three-point game matched a single-game career high and was his first since Dec. 31, 2010 at Florida. The goal was his sixth of the season, while the assists pushed his season total to 21. It was his first assists in seven games, as he last had a helper Mar. 8 vs. Los Angeles. It marks the third time he has hit the 20-assist mark.
C Derick Brassard has points in six of the last nine games after notching two assists on the night. The assists give him 100 for his NHL career (275 games). He has 1-7-8 during that stretch after being held pointless the previous six games. He has tallied 12-24-36 the last 49 games after opening the season with 2-3-5 the first 24 games.