Atkinson returns, scores winner for Blue Jackets in Arizona
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Cam Atkinson viewed his extended absence from the Blue Jackets as a chance at a fresh start. In his first game in more than a month, he came up big.
The veteran forward scored with 3:03 left to give Columbus a 2-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
Returning from a broken foot that sidelined him for 11 games, Atkinson tipped in Alexander Wennberg’s shot. Wennberg also scored to help the Blue Jackets win for the second time in five games.
”It was a chance for me to hit the reset button,” Atkinson said. ”I don’t really want to remember the first half (of the season). It wasn’t great.”
Columbus won its sixth consecutive game against Arizona and snapped the Coyotes’ season-high five-game points streak.
Sergei Bobrovsky had 38 saves, outdueling Antti Raanta, who stopped 25 shots for Arizona in a game that was scoreless after two periods. This was the last game for both teams before the NHL All-Star break.
”The second half of the second period we just turned the thing over left and right, that’s when (Bobrovsky) came up big,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. ”We had it going our way the first half of the second period and then we got stubborn through the neutral zone. I think we gave up eight scoring chances based on six turnovers by ourselves. Bob made some key saves.”
The scoring didn’t come until the third period, first with the Blue Jackets on a power play. Wennberg deflected teammate Seth Jones’ shot into the net at 1:19.
The Coyotes drew even on a power play after an interference call on the Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson. They tied it with 12:21 to play when Brendan Perlini gathered a loose puck that popped out of the crease amid a pileup of players and scored. Perlini, playing his 100th career NHL game, surpassed Peter Mueller for the most goals (28) in his first 100 games with the franchise.
The goal was reviewed for interference with the goaltender, but upheld. Perlini has a goal in four consecutive games.
”He’s playing hard and from October to now, he’s one of our most improved players,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. ”If he plays inside the dots, he’s going to get a lot of goals in this league.”
After a largely uneventful first period, both teams were more active in the second. Raanta thwarted a chance that developed from a series of passes, catching Matt Calvert’s blast from the point at 7:17 of the period.
Bobrovsky extended his right leg to stop Jakob Chychrun’s shot through traffic with 4:35 left in the second. Neither team put the puck in the net in the second 20 minutes of the game.
A scuffle between Coyotes All-Star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Columbus top-liner Artemi Panarin in the crease resulted in roughing penalties for each with 55 seconds to play.
The Blue Jackets went on a power play, the first of the game, 17 seconds into the final period when Arizona defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was called for tripping. Columbus cashed in with Wennberg’s fifth goal.
Atkinson said he screamed at Wennberg for the puck leading up to the winning goal. Wennberg said he didn’t hear his teammate.
”I just saw his stick,” Wennberg said. ”This is the way I want to play. I want to be a player that makes a difference in a game.”
NOTES: The Blue Jackets activated Atkinson from injured reserved before Thursday’s game, and Atkinson played on the Columbus second line. … Columbus assigned F Nathan Gerbe to Cleveland of the AHL. … Coyotes D Alex Goligoski was scratched with an illness, his first missed game of the season. Goligoski had played in 213 straight games. … F Jordan Martinook was able to play despite being a game-time decision with an upper body injury. … C Brad Richardson did not return after the first period and left the game with an upper body injury, it was announced after the second. D Jason Demers also left with an upper body injury in the third. Tocchet had no update on the two after the game.
Blue Jackets: Host Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Coyotes: Host Dallas on Feb. 1.
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