COLUMBUS -- Nick Foligno scored with 1:41 left in the third period to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Nationwide Arena on Thursday.
Forward Cam Atkinson returned after missing 12 games since Dec. 19 with an ankle sprain and had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets (24-16-8), who have won three straight. Elvis Merzlikins, who had a shutout in his previous two games, made 32 saves.
Foligno's goal was his first in 23 games.
"The victory is more important," Foligno said. "Just finding a way to pitch in and help, it feels great. Just finding a way in a really ugly one for us."
[WATCH: All Hurricanes vs. Blue Jackets highlights]
Eric Robinson was on the forecheck along the right wall with Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal. The puck came free and Staal dove to clear it but sent it to the slot where Foligno skated in and scored for the first time since Nov. 29 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Video: CAR@CBJ: Bemstrom scores top shelf in transition
Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton left the game with 17 seconds remaining in the second period because of a lower-body injury. The Hurricanes (27-18-2) did not have an update after the game.
"I haven't heard too much. It doesn't look good, obviously," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "That's a tough one. I hate to see guys get hurt. It's unfortunate, but that's part of it."
Hamilton got tangled with Columbus forward Kevin Stenlund at the red line. Stenlund's right skate clipped Hamilton's right skate and Hamilton's left knee buckled as he went into the boards with his right knee leading.
The Blue Jackets tied the Hurricanes for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference after being 11 points back on Dec. 7. Columbus is 5-0-1 in its past six games and 13-2-4 in its past 19.
"I think we played really good. I think we just had to find a way, and Nick found it," Merzlikins said. "It was a good two points. It was really hard. They are a quick hockey team, and they are dangerous as well."
Petr Mrazek made 15 saves for the Hurricanes, who have lost two straight after a three-game winning streak.
"It's a tough one. That was probably our best game of the year in terms of playing the way we want to play," Brind'Amour said. "The other team didn't really have a lot. We gave them a couple of chances and they found the net, give them credit. … I think we were the better team."
Emil Bemstrom gave Columbus a 1-0 lead at 1:07 of the first period on a wrist shot from the right circle to the upper left corner. Atkinson had the primary assist.
"It was good to get the first assist out of the way on the first shift," Atkinson said. "It settles your nerves a little bit."
The goal came on the Blue Jackets' first shot. They had three the remainder of the period.
Martin Necas scored at 8:38 of the second period to end Merzlikins' shutout streak at 166:29. Necas got out on a breakaway when the stick of Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones broke on a one-timer from Boone Jenner to tie it 1-1.
Atkinson put Columbus ahead 2-1 at 4:51 of the third period.
"When we gave up chances, they were big ones," Staal said. "We created I don't know how many chances. We had the puck the whole game. They obviously blocked a lot of shots, didn't give us much around the net."
Staal tipped a shot from the left point by Teuvo Teravainen at 7:05 of the third to tie it 2-2.
A goal by Columbus' Zach Werenski at 7:43 of the third was overturned by video review after Carolina challenged that Foligno was offside.
"I'm certainly not going to apologize for the win," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "We've had a few go the other way."
Video: CAR@CBJ: Atkinson nets Wennberg pass from in close
They said it
"That's a lot of minutes and big minutes to find and guys have to step up and hopefully we'll get him back sooner rather than later." -- Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook on the injury to defenseman Dougie Hamilton
"I think we're confident, we're quietly confident. We put together a good string of games, and tonight was probably our ugliest one in a while, but there's still things to take away from it." -- Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno
Need to know
Hamilton is on the Metropolitan Division team for the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game, to be played Jan. 25. His 14 goals are second among NHL defensemen, one behind Werenski. ... Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin played his 350th consecutive game to pass Eric Staal for the second-longest streak in Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers history behind Dave Tippett (419 games from March 3, 1984-Oct. 7, 1989). … The Blue Jackets had 26 blocked shots, five by defenseman Seth Jones. Carolina had nine blocks. ... Forward William Karlsson did not play for Vegas. He is week to week with an upper-body injury.
Hurricanes: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-CR, PRIME, NHL.TV)
Blue Jackets: Host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, MSG+, NHL.TV)
Video: Foligno leads Blue Jackets to third straight victory