COLUMBUS, Ohio – With the final seconds of regulation running out, two streaks hung in the balance.
It was time for a big player to make a big play, and that’s exactly what Rick Nash did.
Nash scored in the final minute to force overtime, and rookie Kyle Wilson had a goal on his first career shootout attempt to help the Columbus Blue Jackets end a five-game losing skid with a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars on Monday night.
The loss snapped the Stars’ winning streak at six, one short of tying a franchise record.
“It was big,” Nash, the Blue Jackets captain, said of the victory. “We’d been in a bit of a losing streak here. It’s been tough to find goals.”
Nash, who also scored in the shootout, tied the game with 46.1 seconds left in regulation with his 14th goal.
“It’s what we need to get over a slump like this,” said Wilson, signed as a free agent over the summer after rising through the Washington Capitals’ system. “You need the big players to make big plays, and that’s what he did. He was our biggest player and that was one of the biggest plays of the year for us.”
After Nash and Dallas’s Brad Richards had cancelled each other out with goals in the shootout, Wilson went third and used a hard forehand to beat Kari Lehtonen on the stick side with his left-handed shot.
He earned his spot in the rotation because he won a shootout competition in practice earlier in the season.
“I knew he was a good shooter, so I really wasn’t surprised to see him there,” said Mathieu Garon, who had 16 saves through overtime and stopped two of three attempts in the shootout. “He took the same shot as Nasher took. It was good to see that.”
Garon then made a right toe save on Jamie Benn to seal the win.
Columbus, next-to-last on the power play in the NHL, had scored on only two of its previous 29 times with a man advantage before Nash’s goal.
“I try to be as big as possible,” Lehtonen said of his strategy as Nash handled the puck on the right wing. “I should have known his spot.”
Nash was just hoping that the puck would get through.
“It was a great screen,” he said of teammate R.J. Umberger’s work in front. “I knew the goalie was cheating to his left side, and I had that shot. There were so many people in front, I was trying to not let it hit anyone.”
Steve Ott and Richards had goals in regulation for the Stars, who were trying to post the team’s fifth seven-game winning streak.
Stars coach Marc Crawford recognized his team had enjoyed some breaks during its run. That changed against Columbus.
“We lost in a shootout,” he said. “There’s going to be somebody who’s disappointed and somebody who’s elated after a shootout. We’re the disappointed ones. I liked our team. I thought we were really good in the second. I thought we were the better team in the third period. We got a bad break against us.”
Kris Russell had given Columbus a 1-0 lead in the first period before Dallas took control by dominating the second.
Wilson, one of the early-season surprises for Columbus, was moved up to centre the second line in an attempt to shake up the Blue Jackets’ moribund offence. Columbus had been outscored 12-2 in the last two losses.
Despite their recent troubles, the Blue Jackets are off to their best start in the franchise’s 10 seasons (15-10-1).
“That was a big two points that we needed,” coach Scott Arniel said.
Arniel added that Wilson is a hard shooter in practice and deserved a spot in the shootout.
“The selection of Wilson was real simple,” Arniel said. “He is a guy every day in practice who scores goals. We do drills and he seems to find a way to put pucks in the net. When I yelled his name to go, I think even the other players recognized it. They were excited.”
NOTES: The Blue Jackets had gone 0-4-1 since winning five in a row from Nov. 17-24. … Dallas’ penalty-killing unit had turned aside 17 of the previous 18 before Nash’s late goal. … The Stars came in as one of only four NHL teams with at least four players with 20 points. … Columbus improved to 12-20-5 against Dallas,including 7-9-3 at home.