Islanders Lose Final Regular-Season Game 7-3
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Cam Atkinson scored two goals — giving him five in five periods — to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 7-3 victory on Saturday over the New York Islanders in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Rick Nash opened the scoring in what could be his final game for the Blue Jackets. He has asked for a trade and management has said it will try to deal him this summer.
James Wisniewski and Vinny Prospal each added a goal and two assists and R.J. Umberger and Jack Johnson also scored. Steve Mason made 35 saves. Atkinson also had an assist.
Milan Jurcina and Michael Grabner each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders, with Kyle Okposo also scored.
The Blue Jackets opened the season by going 0-7-1, but closed it by winning five of six and going 16-14-1 over the last 31 games. Interim coach Todd Richards, who took over a team that was 11-25-5 under the fired Scott Arniel, led Columbus to an 18-21-2 record.
The Islanders remain the only NHL team to have not won in regulation in Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets are 6-0-2 against them at home.
When Nash came on the ice for pregame warmups, there were several signs begging him to stay with the organization. One said, “Oh captain, my captain.” Another hand-printed design, referring to general manager Scott Howson, said, “Fire Howson, Keep Nash.”
Then he supplied the first score of the game. Mark Letestu’s shot ended up underneath goalie Al Montoya. Nash muscled his way past defenseman Mark Streit to jam the puck in with 35.6 seconds left in the first.
It was his 30th goal of the season, marking the fifth season in a row and seventh time in his career he had hit that figure. It was his 289th goal, all in a Columbus sweater, in his 674th game. Those are franchise records, along with his 547 points, 83 power-play goals, 14 short-handed goals and 45 game-winning goals.
Atkinson, coming off a three-goal game on Thursday night in a 5-2 win at Colorado, then scored twice in the second period.
He stepped in front of a pass by the Islanders’ Josh Bailey and skated up the left wing, pivoting near the top of the left circle and then unleashing a hard shot that found the net high inside the far post.
Jurcina, a former Blue Jacket, cut the lead in half with a hard shot after Mason had survived one shot off the post and had fallen on top of the puck briefly before it ended up on Jurcina’s stick.
The Blue Jackets made it 3-1 on a nifty play which featured two quick passes. Derick Brassard dug the puck off the short boards and whisked a pass to Atkinson near the left edge of the trapezoid and he fed Umberger, who did waited before slipping the puck past Montoya.
The Islanders came right back to cut the deficit to a goal on Okposo’s 34th, a quick wrister that caught the right post but then went in off Mason’s back.
The turning point came late in the second period when the Blue Jackets ended up with 1:11 of a 5 on 3 advantage after penalties to defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Steve Staios, playing in his 1,001st game.
With a two-man advantage, Wisniewski was set up on the left wing for a one-timer from Prospal. Less than a minute later, with the Blue Jackets still up a man, Atkinson cleaned up a rebound off of another Wisniewski shot.
The late, two-game goal flurry by Atkinson followed a 12-game goal drought.
Columbus then blew the game open with goals by Johnson and Prospal in the third.
Notes: Blue Jackets RW Derek Dorsett was involved in two fights, giving him the NHL lead this season in penalty minutes with 235. … Okposo has scored 22 of his 24 goals since the start of December. … The Blue Jackets finished with 65 points, their third fewest total in their 11 seasons (57 in 2001-2002, 62 in 2003-2004). … The Islanders finished with 79 points.
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