NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Even though they got back on the winning track, the Columbus Blue Jackets have a lot to figure out if they want to make the playoffs.
Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin scored in a shootout and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped both New Jersey attempts as the Blue Jackets posted a 2-1 win over the Devils on Tuesday night in a game in which they were outplayed.
“Other than our first couple shifts of the game, they absolutely dictated the pace of the game,” Atkinson said after Columbus snapped a two-game losing streak. “We got out-battled and lost all the 50-50s and it’s unacceptable and obviously without Bob, they would have had a lot more goals. We’re lucky to come away with two points, let alone one.”
The Blue Jackets made big moves at the trade deadline, acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Adam McQuaid, but the team now built to compete for the Stanley Cup has not looked good.
“Very important points but certainly some struggles,” said coach John Tortorella, whose team has been sliding in and out of playoff position. “No matter what it looks like or no matter what the reason is, we’ve been inconsistent and we just got to go each day at a time and find a way to get better.”
Atkinson also scored the Columbus goal in regulation. Bobrovsky had 29 saves as the Blue Jackets swept their four-game season series with New Jersey.
Travis Zajac scored for New Jersey in regulation and Cory Schneider had 17 saves as the Devils lost their fourth in a row.
“Overall with the amount of firepower they have I thought we did a tremendous job defensively, making them work,” Schneider said. “Offensively, I thought we had a couple of chances to get the go-ahead goal and just missed or Bobrovsky made a big save. Not good enough to get a win, but you know, that’s kind of how it goes.”
After Bobrovsky stopped Blake Coleman’s attempt with his shoulder, Atkinson scored on a backhander.
Schneider said Atkinson’s top move is a forehand shot.
“Every goalie knows my tendencies and went with my B and it worked,” Atkinson said.
Bobrovsky poke-checked the puck away from Drew Stafford on the Devils’ next try, and Panarin ended the game by slipping one between Schneider’s pads.
The Devils had two great chances to take the lead late in the third period on a power play. Bobrovsky stopped a tip by Nick Lappin and Michael McLeod hit the post in a bid for his first NHL goal.
The Devils had the better scoring chances in the first two periods and they finally capitalized with three minutes left in the second period.
Coleman, who had not had a point in 13 games, set up the goal by carrying the puck into the Columbus end and slamming on the brakes. He faked a shot and sent a cross-ice pass that Zajac put into an open net.
“Like I said, we are not scoring as much as we need to but we are a really hard team to play against right now,” Coleman said. “Our forecheck and our effort is very obvious. A lot of guys are starting to show they can play in this league.”
Atkinson had given the Blue Jackets the lead less than a minute after the opening faceoff with the help of a fluky bounce off the end boards. Defenseman David Savard took a shot from the left point that hit the boards and came out the other side to a wide-open Atkinson for his career-high 36th goal.
The Devils’ injuries continued to mount. Forward Jesper Bratt left the game early in the second period after being hit in the leg by a shot. Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, was hurt in Boston on Saturday and missed his first game since Nov. 18 with an upper-body injury.
Devils coach John Hynes had no update on Bratt’s injury after the game.
Columbus made one lineup change, scratching C Lukas Sedlak and dressing F Markus Hannikainen.
The Devils activated F Stefan Noesen off injured reserve. He was out almost a month with a lower-body injury. Former Devils G Keith Kinkaid, who was shipped to Columbus at the trade deadline, was the Blue Jackets’ backup. The Devils showed a video with highlights of his career in New Jersey. Devils D Sami Vatanen was out with an illness.
The Devils open a six-game road trip at Washington on Friday.
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