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Postgame Hat Trick: First line pushes Blue Jackets over Blackhawks

Panarin, Atkinson, Dubois shine in key win vs. Chicago

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The Blue Jackets had a bit of a precarious situation going into Saturday night's game at Chicago. 

Fresh off a loss against the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders, Columbus went into one of the toughest places in the NHL to play, not to mention going up against a red-hot team that had won eight of nine. 

Another loss would have been a tough one to swallow with NHL-leading Tampa Bay coming to town Monday, and on top of that, Columbus had to make the trip with untested rookies Eric Robinson and Kole Sherwood -- making his NHL debut -- in the lineup. 

But the Blue Jackets circled the wagons and left the Windy City with a 5-2 win in front of a massive United Center crowd that featured 15 team moms/sisters/aunts. (Terri Jenner didn't make the trip after the injury to her son Boone).  

"If (we hadn't won), I think they would be pretty mad at us," David Savard said. "We had to get that one." 

 Video: Torts comments after the win

Here are three thoughts from the Blue Jackets' victory. 

1. First line dominance: Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois, the team's top line, combined for four of the five goals, with Panarin potting two, Atkinson having another (and a second ruled off for a tough-luck offside call) and Dubois opening the scoring. 

One game after the Blue Jackets were shut out, the top line was flying. There were fantastic individual efforts -- Dubois' goal where he carted the puck 120 feet before beating Cam Ward alone -- and tic-tac-toe passing plays, such as Atkinson-to-Panarin-to-Atkinson for the goal that made it 3-1. 

Video: CBJ@CHI: Atkinson finishes give-and-go with Panarin

By the end of the night, Panarin and Dubois were plus-4 while Atkinson was plus-3.  

"I think we just played to our strengths," Atkinson said. "I think we did a lot of good reloading, which created a lot of turnovers. Luc wanted the puck -- it was a great play on his first goal. Our whole line contributed. I think we all did a lot of good things, and we have to continue." 

Panarin was nearly unstoppable in his second game back in the United Center since the summer 2017 trade that sent him from Chicago to Columbus. Were it not for Atkinson's disallowed goal, he would have had a four-point night, and it could have been even more as he also hit the post in the third period.  

"I like to score in general, especially against the Blackhawks," he said through an interpreter. "It was good to help the team. Today, I had twice of everything -- motivation and other factors." 

2. Bad second, good third: In the final 10 minutes of the second period, it was one-way traffic, and unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, it was all headed at goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. 

"I don't even know how to describe it," head coach John Tortorella said. "It was up to Bob to keep us in there with all the pressure. I was looking left (from the bench) the whole period. I don't even remember looking right that much." 

Chicago finished the period with 20 shots, including 15 in the last 8:26, but Bobrovsky was mostly game. He made a string of difficult saves -- rivaling a stretch in the first period when he spectacularly denied Dylan SIkura and Jonathan Toews -- before finally breaking when Toews scored in the last minute to cut Columbus' lead to 3-2. 

"It was almost good that they got that goal right at the end because it woke us up," defenseman Ryan Murray said. "We didn't get away with it. We knew we had to come back strong in the third and we did that." 

Whatever was said in the locker room before the third certainly worked. Panarin deflected a Seth Jones shot past Cam Ward just 12 seconds into the period -- even if it was more an accident than anything else -- and Columbus carried the play in the final 20 minutes, keeping Chicago to six shots. 

"The thing that's fresh in my mind is we bounce back from probably one of the worst periods we've played in quite a while," Tortorella said, "and played a really good third period. That's what I take out of tonight." 

3. A comeback win: Considering the logjam in the Eastern Conference and Metro standings -- Columbus is in third in the Metro, while Pittsburgh is two points behind the Jackets but currently out of the playoffs -- a two-game losing skid with Tampa up next would have been a difficult thing to swallow. 

"We needed a bounce-back game, that's for sure," Murray said. "It just didn't click against the Islanders there. They shut us down. We needed a bounce-back game, and we got it. I thought we played really well." 

Columbus also navigated the tricky waters of going from facing the best defense in the NHL in the Islanders to a Chicago team that scores in bunches but also gives up goals. Patrick Kane got two points with a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to 17 games, but Bobrovsky and Columbus didn't let the 22,000+ on hand rattle them as others have. 

On the other side of the puck, the Blue Jackets took advantage of the open ice and ended what had been a hot run by goaltender Ward. 

"Quite honestly, I thought there was more ice to play on tonight," Tortorella said. "The Islanders are a tough team to play against. There was more ice to play on. We talked about that we needed to rebound here and just play a better game." 

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