PHILADELPHIA (AP) A change in mindset during the preseason has turned the Columbus Blue Jackets from a perennial loser into one of the NHL’s best teams.
Cam Atkinson scored twice and Brandon Dubinsky had the go-ahead goal in the third period to help the Blue Jackets set franchise records for wins and points in a season with a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night.
Zach Werenski and Sam Gagner also scored for the Blue Jackets, who have 44 wins and 94 points.
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Columbus entered the season with just three winning campaigns in its 15-year existence. The Blue Jackets have made the playoffs twice, but never won a postseason series.
They knew something needed to change.
”From training camp, just a mindset expecting to win every single night and not hoping to win,” said Atkinson, who has played all six seasons of his career in Columbus. ”That’s a huge belief that every player bought in. It’s kind of like a trickle-down effect, starting with management, to the coaches, to the players. We bought in at earlier stages and it’s showing up, for sure.”
Coach John Tortorella, in his first full season at the helm after taking over eight games into last season, said Columbus was set on earning the league’s respect.
”Our whole mantra at the beginning at the year,” Tortorella said, ”was being better pros, being businessmen and just trying to gain some respect in the league because we had zero going into the season. Zero.”
While very pleased with the victory, Tortorella wasn’t interested in celebrating the franchise marks.
”It’s great for the people and (the media) to talk about,” he said. ”We’re looking at other things. We’re looking at our next game and trying to get better as a team. You don’t make your name with regular-season records and stuff like that.”
Travis Konecny had a pair of goals and Brayden Schenn also scored for sagging Philadelphia, which has lost 10 of 15 to hurt its fading playoff chances. The Flyers are six points out of a postseason spot with 14 games remaining.
”This isn’t an easy loss in our own building,” coach Dave Hakstol said. ”Bottom line is you make a choice and you make that choice right now. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get ready for a game here (against Pittsburgh) on Wednesday night.”
Dubinsky’s power-play goal with 11:14 left snapped a 3-all tie. He beat Flyers goalie Steve Mason to the glove side with a wrist shot into the top right corner after an excellent screen in front by Scott Hartnell. The goal followed a rouging minor on Konecny.
”I play as hard as I can every night and when you’re fortunate to put one in the back of the net, especially a winner, it feels real good,” Dubinsky said.
Atkinson got his second of the game and 32nd of the season with 20.9 seconds remaining on an empty-netter.
Konecny’s penalty marred an otherwise stellar game by the Flyers rookie.
He scored his first of the game with 5:50 left in the first period on a wrist shot from the left circle that beat Sergei Bobrovsky glove side to pull Philadelphia to 2-1.
The Flyers went in front 3-2 by scoring the first two goals of the second.
Schenn scored his 20th of the season and NHL-leading 15th on the power play with a one-timer from the slot that tied the game at 4:23. Konecny made it 3-2 with 8:57 left in the period with a wrist shot from a sharp angle that went over Bobrovsky’s glove. It was his 10th of the season and the first two-goal game of his career.
Werenski tied it at 3 with a shot from the point that went under the left arm of a screened Mason with 5:30 remaining in the second.
Konecny appeared to record a hat trick with 2:44 left in the period, but his goal was disallowed after officials ruled the net was dislodged prior to the puck crossing the goal line.
Philadelphia converted one of its five power-play opportunities in a penalty-filled second period for Columbus. The Blue Jackets received 16 total minutes of penalties in the period.
First-period goals by Gagner and Atkinson gave Columbus an early 2-0 lead.
Atkinson was back on the ice following Saturday’s scary injury when he received 17 stitches in his left shoulder after being cut by the skate of Buffalo’s Marcus Foligno.
The Flyers finished 1 for 8 on the power play as the Blue Jackets racked up 20 minutes in penalties.
Tortorella, though, wasn’t interested in criticizing his players for their lack of discipline.
”I’m not saying a bad word about the team because they fought their way through and found a way to win,” he said. ”And that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
NOTES: Flyers D Brandon Manning (upper body) wasn’t in the lineup, one game after his deflection of Drew Stafford’s dump-in shot with 5.6 seconds left gave Boston a 2-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday. … Columbus’ Nick Foligno (illness) didn’t play. … Blue Jackets D Ryan Murray is out four to six weeks after breaking his hand in Saturday’s 5-3 loss at Buffalo. … Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux extended his point streak to four games with an assist on Schenn’s goal. … Columbus took a 2-0 lead in the season series. The teams have two games remaining, March 25 at Columbus and April 8 in Philadelphia. … Seth Jones had two assists for Columbus.
Blue Jackets: Host the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Flyers: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.