Nash lifts Blue Jackets past Maple Leafs

TORONTO (Ticker) — Captain Rick Nash scored the decisive goal
in the shootout after recording a tally and an assist in
regulation, leading the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-3 victory
over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

Jason Williams also tallied in the bonus format for the Blue
Jackets, who are 6-0-1 over their last seven games.

R.J. Umberger and Kristian Huselius scored in regulation and
Manny Malhotra added a pair of assists for Columbus.

“Every night we can get two points is huge, especially when we
played back-to-back games,” Huselius said. “We were kind of
sloppy; looked tired but still, we came up with the win. So
that shows a lot of character.”

Nik Antropov netted a pair of goals, Jamal Mayers tallied and
Alexei Ponikarovsky had two assists for the Maple Leafs, who
have lost six of their last eight contests.

“We had a lot of chances, a couple empty nets,” Antropov said.
“It’s frustrating to lose like that. We had the game in hand,
but at the end of the night, it’s a loss.”

Williams opened the scoring in the shootout despite losing
control of the puck on his attempt. The move still fooled
Toronto rookie goaltender Justin Pogge, who let the puck slide
past him.

“You can ask the goalies here, I’ve done it on them a couple of
times,” Williams said. “It’s just one of those moves that is
kind of risky, but it paid off and I’m glad it did.”

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After Jason Blake provided the answer by banging his ensuing
attempt off the goalpost and in for the Maple Leafs, Nash
converted his chance with quick snap shot to recapture the
advantage for the Blue Jackets.

“We’ve been struggling a bit on the penalty shots,” Nash said.
“The first one was lucky, Willy kind of tricked him. I was
lucky to get one in to win it.”

Rookie Steve Mason, who finished with 32 saves, stopped Lee
Stempniak’s attempt to secure a milestone win for Columbus coach
Ken Hitchcock.

The 57-year-old Hitchcock became the 13th coach in NHL history
to reach the 500-win mark. He is tied with Hall of Famer Toe
Blake for 12th on the all-time list.

Facing a 3-2 deficit entering the final session, the Blue
Jackets tied the contest 98 seconds into the period. Nash
controlled the puck behind the net and delivered a centering
pass to Huselius, who fired a one-timer past Pogge.

“We were back right away in the third, got some good shifts and
scored right away to tie it up,” Huselius said. “We just played
solid all the way.”

Pogge, who did not make a save in the shootout, stopped 31 shots
before the bonus format.

“(Pogge) played well,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “He was
solid and gave us a chance to win the game.”