Atkinson, Tyutin lead Blue Jackets past Capitals 4-3
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Cam Atkinson had not scored a goal in his last 18 games.
Put on the same line with a couple of the central figures from this past weekend's NHL All-Star game, he finally found the net.
Atkinson and Fedor Tyutin each had a goal and an assist, and Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.
Ryan Johansen, the MVP of the All-Star game played on the Blue Jackets' home ice, also had a goal and Atkinson's other linemate, Nick Foligno, an All-Star captain, had two assists.
''I felt like I wasn't shooting enough,'' said Atkinson, who hadn't scored since Dec. 4. ''Obviously, when you're playing with a couple of All-Stars, they can help you out a little bit. I just tried to shoot when I could and make plays.''
Columbus coach Todd Richards stuck Atkinson on the same line with Johansen and Foligno hoping to light a fire under him.
''The thought process was, I was just trying to find the right combinations to get more offense,'' Richards said. ''It's been a long time (for Atkinson). He's a guy who has a knack for the net. He's got that offensive ability. It's been dry for a while for him, but it was great to see that tonight.''
Mark Letestu added a goal for the Blue Jackets, who know they cannot lose many times the rest of the way if they want to make another charge - as they did last year under similar conditions - to make the playoffs.
''Our line could have had six goals out there,'' said Johansen, who had two goals and two assists in Sunday's wild 17-12 All-Star game. ''I'm happy with the result.''
McElhinney, starting in place of top goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who will miss four to six weeks with a groin injury, made several big saves down the stretch.
Washington countered Columbus goals with scores of their own three times until the Blue Jackets finally took over late.
''Obviously, they came right back a couple of times, but for the most part we stayed on the path,'' McElhinney said. ''We had a pretty solid third period to wrap it up.''
Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist, and Andre Burakovsky and Troy Brouwer also scored for the Capitals, who have lost four in a row (0-3-1). Braden Holtby made 26 saves and Matt Niskanen had two assists.
''We're just giving up too many goals right now,'' coach Barry Trotz said. ''In this league, trying to win every game 5-4, you're not going to do it.''
With the Blue Jackets up 3-2 heading into the third period, Atkinson ended up with a loose puck in the high slot and wristed a hard shot past Holtby high on the stick side for his ninth at the 5:20 mark.
''I was kind of stunned when the puck came back to me,'' Atkinson said. ''I got it off as quick as I could and it found the back of the net.''
The Capitals scored 33 and 36 seconds after the previous two Columbus goals. Marcus Johansson's shot from the left wing was blocked by McElhinney, but Kuznetsov was there in the slot, going down to one knee to fire in the rebound. It was his fifth of the season and came with 7:51 remaining in regulation.
But the Blue Jackets held on the rest of the way, Atkinson clanging a shot off the post after a steal and then Holtby making terrific saves on Johansen point blank and James Wisniewski on a late power play.
NOTES: Alex Ovechkin spent six days in a row in Columbus, sticking around after the All-Star game to meet the rest of the Capitals when they arrived on Monday. ... Like a lot of snowbirds, the Blue Jackets are heading to Florida. They'll play the Panthers and Lightning on Thursday and Saturday before returning home. ... Washington's Nicklas Backstrom got his 400th career assist on Burakovsky's goal. He hurt his hand in the third and went to the dressing room, but returned after missing a couple of shifts. ... Foligno's two assists gave him 250 career NHL points. ... The Capitals host Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. ... Johansen has points in his last nine home games.
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