BOSTON (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets felt like they were lucky to get a victory in their late-season push for one of the Eastern Conference’s playoff spots.
Cam Atkinson scored 2:55 into overtime to lift the Blue Jackets to a 5-4 comeback victory over Boston on Monday night for their eighth straight win, spoiling a splendid NHL debut for Bruins forward Ryan Donato.
“We stuck with it and that’s what good teams do,” Atkinson said. “It wasn’t our prettiest by no means, but we found a way to get two huge points.”
Sonny Milano, Boone Jenner, Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin also scored for the Blue Jackets. Nick Foligno and Ryan Murray had two assists, and Vanek and Jenner each added one. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 34 shots.
Columbus moved into a tie with Philadelphia with 85 points, but the Flyers hold the tiebreaker for third place in the Metropolitan Division and the Blue Jackets hold the first wild card in the East. New Jersey,which has the second wild card, is three points behind.
This one, though, may have been the Blue Jackets’ ugliest during the current run.
“It just looked like as a whole group we didn’t seem to have our legs,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “The turnovers hurt us, we turned the puck over quite a bit. But give them credit, they just ended up finding a way.”
Atkinson cut in on the left wing and fired a wrister past Tuukka Rask for the game-winner.
“You see it, there’s no traffic in front of you, but there’s more clear-cut chances,” Rask said of the 3-on-3 overtime format. “Even that goal there, it looks like he’s going high-stick, but it goes under my hand.”
Donato had a goal and two assists for Boston, which moved a point behind idle Tampa Bay for first in the Atlantic. Riley Nash, Brad Marchand and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins, and Rask finished with 20 saves.
“It kind of felt like a dream,” Donato said. “I really didn’t really get too warmed up because I was focused everything else.”
The Blue Jackets trailed by two late in the second period before scoring three consecutive goals to take a 4-3 lead.
Just 25 seconds after Nash had given the Bruins a 3-1 lead, Milano redirected Ryan Murray’s slap-pass from the right point to pull Columbus within one with just over three minutes remaining in the middle period.
Vanek tipped in a shot from the slot, tying it 5:38 into the third, and Panarin put the Blue Jackets ahead off a faceoff with 8:30 left in regulation.
However, Donato slipped a short pass from the right circle to Krejci, who got the tying goal 20 seconds later while falling to one knee.
Jenner got Columbus on the scoreboard first when he redirected Vanek’s pass by Rask 4:15 into the game.
The Bruins scored three straight goals in the second to take the lead. Marchand tied it with his team-leading 31st of the season when he got the puck at the end of a 2-on-1 break, shifted to his right and tucked it behind Korpisalo 5:41 into the middle period.
Donato, a Hobey Baker Finalist after leading Harvard in scoring this season, pushed Boston ahead with a one-timer that slipped inside the near post from the right faceoff circle at 7:28. The leading scorer on the U.S. team at the Pyeongchang Olympics signed a two-year, entry-level contract on Sunday.
Nash’s power-play goal increased it to 3-1 as he banged home a rebound from the top of the crease with 3:28 remaining.
NOTES: Boston F David Pastrnak got his 70th point on Marchand’s goal, matching his career-high. … Bruins F Rick Nash was a late scratch with an upper-body injury. … The Blue Jackets entered with the league’s second-worst power play and went 0 for 2 against the Bruins. … Local Olympians, including eight from the women’s Gold medal-winning hockey team, were honored during a ceremonial puck drop. … Bruins captain Zdeno Chara missed his third straight with an upper-body injury. … Columbus D Seth Jones missed his second straight with an upper-body injury.
Blue Jackets: At the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Columbus won the only other meeting, 3-1 at home on Oct. 13.
Bruins: At St. Louis on Thursday in the first of a four-game road trip.