Atkinson, Panarin lead Blue Jackets past Flyers, 4-3
By AARON BRACY, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Although he’s diminutive in size, Cam Atkinson plays big in front of the net.
Atkinson scored two more goals as part of an eight-point game for Columbus’ top line to lead the Blue Jackets to their third straight victory, 4-3 over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
Listed at 5-foot-8, 179 pounds, Atkins upped his season total to 22 goals. He has scored at least 20 in six straight seasons.
“I like scoring goals,” he said.
Atkinson netted both from close range, something he said is the key to his prowess.
“I score a lot of my goals around the net, and you have to put yourself there,” he said. “I guess good reads, put yourself where you think the puck is going to go and good things happen.”
Atkinson notched the first of his two scores with 10:30 left in the second period. Carter Hart made a stellar kick save on Atkinson’s first attempt, but the Blue Jackets star stayed with it and roofed the follow-up shot from the left of the crease.
“I heard the crowd going bananas; they went from 100 to zero pretty quickly,” Atkinson said. “He made a great save initially, just stuck with it.”
He went to the other side of the goal for his 22nd of the season, finishing a good passing play with Artemi Panarin making a move before finding Scott Harrington, who sent the feed cross-ice to Atkinson.
“Just great offensive instincts,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “For a smaller guy body size, he’s willing to play in the (scoring) areas.”
Panarin had a goal and two assists and Pierre-Luc Dubois added three assists as part of a big night for the Blue Jackets’ top line. They almost lost the opportunity for that success because of some early-game struggles.
“That line was brutal their first three shifts,” Tortorella said. “I was thinking about breaking it up. Thank God I didn’t overcoach.”
James van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist and Sean Couturier and Phil Varone netted goals for Philadelphia, which lost its first game since interim coach Scott Gordon replaced the fired Dave Hakstol and the 20-year-old Hart took over the goaltending duties.
After stopping 51 of 54 shots in wins over Detroit and Nashville this week, Hart allowed four goals on the first 15 shots he faced and finished with 15 saves. He was trying to become the fourth Flyers goalie to start his career with three straight victories.
“Obviously, I have to make a couple more saves,” he said. “We didn’t give them much and when they did get some chances, they capitalized.”
Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 saves for the Blue Jackets.
Columbus, which began Saturday four points behind Washington in second in the Metropolitan Division, outscored the Flyers 3-1 in the second period to take a two-goal advantage into the third.
Philadelphia went in front 2-1 on Varone’s first goal in his sixth game since his call-up from the AHL. He finished a rebound 7½ minutes into the second period.
But the Blue Jackets tallied the next three.
After Atkinson’s two scores, Panarin made it a 4-2 game with 35.6 seconds left in the period when his quick shot after Dubois’ faceoff win beat a screened Hart between the pads.
Van Riemsdyk notched his fifth of the season after a scramble in front of the net with 1:10 remaining in regulation to make it a one-goal contest.
NOTES: Columbus had killed off 14 straight penalties before Couturier’s power-play tally with 22.3 seconds left in the first period. … The Blue Jackets improved to 3-0 against Philadelphia this season. The teams will play their regular-season finale on Feb. 28 in Columbus. … Bobrovsky improved to 13-3-1 against Philadelphia. … Voracek’s assist on van Riemsdyk’s goal gave him 600 career points.
Columbus: At the Devils on Sunday.
Philadelphia: Begin a five-game trip at the Rangers on Sunday night.
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