COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Rick Nash attributes his team’s high-flying start to camaraderie on and off the ice.
Nash stretched his streak of multipoint games to four with a pair of assists 2:04 apart in the second period, and the Columbus Blue Jackets rallied for a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.
“This is the tightest group I think we’ve had,” said Nash of the Blue Jackets (4-1), who are off to the best start in franchise history. “Everyone’s friends, everyone’s close off the ice. We’re buying into the system early. Usually in past seasons it’s taken us some time to get into that.”
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Columbus made the most of a two-man advantage when former Flames Anton Stralman and Kristian Huselius scored.
“We earned the power plays that we got,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We got stronger and stronger as the game wore on. We earned (power plays) because of our hard work and ability to keep the puck in the offensive zone.”
Stralman netted his goal with a slap shot following a faceoff, and Huselius scored from in-close off a slick pass from Nash immediately after the second penalty expired.
Curtis Glencross scored for Calgary, which has lost three straight after opening the season with four wins.
It was the second defeat in two nights for the Flames, who blew a five-goal lead at Chicago on Monday and lost 6-5 in overtime. The Blackhawks’ comeback victory tied for the largest in NHL history.
“Our mindsets were right coming into the game tonight,” Flames coach Brent Sutter said. “We had a good first period then we backed off in the second period.”
The Blue Jackets, fresh off a successful western road trip in which they won two of three, got a solid outing from goalie Steve Mason after he was yanked in his last outing.
Last season’s Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s top rookie, finished with 22 saves, including gloving a slap shot from Eric Nystrom down low late in the game. He also covered the puck in heavy traffic around the crease with Flames captain Jarome Iginla digging away with just over a minute left.
“What we are really working on is to hold the fort and get a push back,” Iginla said. “I thought we almost did that in the second period and then we ran into penalty trouble.”
Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 31 shots for the Flames.
Glencross gave Calgary a 1-0 lead 16:19 into the game with his second goal of the season. Several players overskated the puck at the top of the left circle before Rene Bourque spun and whipped a wrist shot that Glencross redirected past Mason. Bourque, who leads the Flames with nine points, has a four-game point streak.
In the second period, after consecutive hooking penalties to Calgary defensemen Mark Giordano and Cory Sarich, the Blue Jackets broke through.
“We played really good today,” Hitchcock said. “We reloaded hard and put pressure on them.”
Nash fed a pass to Derick Brassard off the faceoff and he slid the puck to Stralman, acquired from the Flames in September because of his ability to run the point. He smoothly one-timed a shot from the top of the left circle past a screened Kiprusoff at 15:32 for his first goal.
“Kipper is a great goalie,” Stralman said. “He’s very flexible and usually takes the ice away. I actually didn’t think that it was going in.”
Huselius snapped a low shot from the right side of the goal area at 17:36 for his second.
“We didn’t have our best period in the first but in the second I thought we played our best period so far this season,” Huselius said. “We forechecked hard, we capitalized on our chance on the power play and just kept going at them. That set up the win.”