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Umberger leads Jackets past Hurricanes @NHLdotcom
R.J. Umberger and the Columbus Blue Jackets had a night to remember in a season they'd like to forget.

Umberger had his third career hat trick and Steve Mason stopped 39 shots Friday night as the last-place Blue Jackets routed Carolina 5-1, severely damaging the Hurricanes' flickering playoff hopes.

"We've taken a lot of flak the last six games for not scoring any goals," Umberger said after his first hat trick since Nov. 30, 2009. "Honestly, I felt like one of these nights was coming because we've had a lot of chances. I know myself I've had chance after chance. We just weren't scoring goals. Tonight it just seemed like everything lined up right."

The loss ended Carolina's four-game winning streak and dropped the 'Canes seven points behind eighth-place Washington and ninth-place Buffalo, each of whom has 82 points.

"That wasn't very good," forward Brandon Sutter said. "We obviously didn't play the way we wanted to. We need all the points we can right now to get in the top eight. It's not acceptable."

Columbus coach Todd Richards wouldn't call it the most impressive win since he took over for Scott Arniel on Jan. 9. He preferred to praise his team's League-worst penalty kill, which killed off all five Carolina power plays, including 1:35 of 5 on 3.

"Our guys did a great job," Richards said. "There was one really good opportunity they had (with a two-man advantage) that Mason made the save on. Fresh ice and fresh players out on the ice, with a 3-1 lead, that was a huge kill. That kind of set up the rest of the third period."

Vinny Prospal added a goal and an assist and Mark Letestu also scored as the Jackets routed Cam Ward, Derick Brassard assisted on each of Umberger's goals, and Nikita Nikitin and Jack Johnson each had two assists. The second for Johnson was the 100th assist of his career.

"We know he's a world-class goalie," Brassard said of Ward. "For us to struggle scoring goals and come out and play against a hungry team, it's huge."

It's been a miserable season for the Jackets, who are assured of finishing last in the overall standings, and for Umberger -- the Ohio native had 23 goals and 46 points in each of the last three years but he came into the game with only 11 goals and 17 assists.

He felt that scoring on the power play -- breaking an 0-for-35 drought with the man advantage -- was a big key.

"The first one, getting a goal on the power play, was sort of a breath of fresh air for us," Umberger said. "It's been tough to get one lately. We haven't been converting. I think the whole team felt good when that one went in."

After Prospal scored on a wrister at 6:50 of the opening period for a 1-0 lead, Umberger made it 2-0 at 9:03 of the second when his rising slap shot from the left point beat Ward high on the glove side, ending the power-play drought.

The Hurricanes cut the lead in half at 13:16 when Drayson Bowman jammed in his own rebound.

"We didn't come out real hard, fell behind, and then they made a couple of nice plays," Bowman said. "We were fighting to get one from then on. Nothing seemed to go right."

But just 1:30 later, Brassard slid a cross-ice pass from the left half-wall to Umberger, who one-timed it past Ward on the glove side.

The Jackets put the game away with a pair of late goals. Brassard took advantage of a Carolina giveaway at the blue line, came out 2-on-1 with Umberger and fed him for a one-timer that beat Ward at 14:58 -- triggering a shower of hats on the ice. Letestu added the final goal 77 seconds later.

"The last five games, we didn't bury any of our chances," Brassard said. "Tonight all of the guys did a good job."

Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said there wasn't much to do but forget the loss and get ready for Saturday night's game at Detroit.

"We just looked like a tired hockey team tonight," he said. "We've had a lot of games here in March. Guys have been battling every night. It's a tough loss for us. We've got to bounce back and get ready for a good opponent."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
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