Atkinson backed up his coach's faith on Friday night.
Atkinson scored in the shootout to lead the Blue Jackets to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.
''Big two points,'' Richards said. ''I liked the way that we played. I thought we managed, I thought we played hard from the start to the finish.
''They're a good team and they're going to get their opportunities; they had their opportunities and Curtis made some saves for us. As far as a 60-plus minute effort we probably got efforts from everyone tonight.''
''I think our goalie gave us a chance tonight to hang around and get our legs,'' Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. ''I feel fortunate we got a point. Our goaltender gave us a chance to get a point tonight and we have to do better tomorrow night.''
Atkinson scored the only goal in the shootout.
''I was kind of watching to see what the guys were doing,'' Atkinson said. ''It seemed like they were shooting and I'm a deker. I saw the opening in the five-hole. "
Anisimov gave Columbus a 1-0 lead 7:34 into the game when he roofed a Brandon Dubinsky rebound over Brodeur.
''I found a rebound,'' Anisimov said. ''I saw him lay down, spread the legs, and I tried to put it up.''
The goal was the 11th of the season for Anisimov, and for Dubinsky, his assist was seventh point in three games against the Devils this season.
The Blue Jackets had opportunities to take control in the second, but could not solve Brodeur. He made 10 saves in the period, highlighted by stopping Atkinson on a breakaway at 1:24.
The Columbus right wing blocked Eric Gelinas' point shot, and then beat the New Jersey defenseman to the loose puck in the neutral zone to begin the play.
Even though Brodeur was very good in the second, Columbus had three opportunities on the power play in the period and allowed just four shots. The Blue Jackets finished the game 0 for 5 on the man advantage in 8:26 of power play time.
''Our decisions on the power play weren't always great coming up the ice,'' Richards said. ''Some of that had to do with what the Devils were doing. They force you. ... they trap you in areas. Our execution wasn't great. Some of that was based on what they were doing and their pressure.''
While Brodeur was busy in the first two periods, McElhinney only faced nine shots on goal and stopped them all.
''I think we pride ourselves on our forecheck and our offensive zone play,'' DeBoer said. ''It's related to winning more battles and having more of a shot mentality. It's not as easy as we're passing up shots. A lot of times, we're not spending a lot of times in the other team's zone. That's why we're not creating those shots. We have to do a better job.''
But New Jersey began to pressure Columbus in the third. The Devils had eight shots on goal in the period and finished with 17 for the game.
The offensive attack paid off when Henrique drew the Devils even at 1-1 at 5:45 of the third when he shoved a rebound of a Patrik Elias shot past McElhinney before crashing into the Columbus goaltender. The goal was the seventh of the season for Henrique.
''(Marek Zidlicky) made a good shot - I don't know if (Elias) tipped it on the way in or not - but I tried to drive to the net, get to the net and get a rebound,'' Henrique said. ''I thought we played a better game in the third.
''Marty gave us a chance to win. It's tough to give that extra (point) up.''
NOTES: Left wing Ryane Clowe returned to the Devils lineup Friday night after missing 31 games with post-concussion symptoms following a Jacob Trouba elbow on Oct. 13. ''He's been out for a while,'' DeBoer said when he met with reporters following the morning skate. He's worked really hard at keeping himself and getting himself back into good shape. He's done a ton of off-ice stuff so I don't think conditioning will be an issue, but anytime you miss that kind of time he missed and jump in at this point in the season, timing and things like that are going to be things he has to work through.'' ... The game was the first for both teams following the NHL's three-day holiday break. ''Sometimes coming out of breaks like this it's about trying to finding that edge, again,'' Richards said after the morning skate. ''For me it's the mental side of the game.''