The Columbus Blue Jackets have come out of their bye week playing their best hockey in nearly two months.
Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg each scored twice to lead the Blue Jackets to a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday. While many teams have struggled after their mandatory time off, Columbus rolled to its second win in two days and moved past the Rangers into third place in the Metropolitan Division.
"We talked about it, that it's hard for teams coming from this break, and we wanted to come back hard, skate hard," Wennberg said. "This break was good for us."
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots to tie his career high with his 32nd win. Josh Anderson also scored and Oliver Bjorkstrand had two assists to help the Blue Jackets win for the fourth time in five games.
Columbus went into its break 10-11-1 since a 16-game winning streak in early January, but now has back-to-back victories for just the third time since then.
"It was just good, solid play in all areas — the offensive part of it, the defensive part of it, momentum part of it," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "We talked about that five-day break ... what we were going to be like, and we probably played six of our best periods of the year."
The Blue Jackets won three of five in the season series — including both games at Madison Square Garden — after losing seven straight meetings coming in.
Rick Nash scored a tying goal for the Rangers early in the first period. Jesper Fast scored in the final second, and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 26 saves.
"They put a lot of pucks toward the net and they go there and it's a pretty simple formula for them," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "We talked about it beforehand, making sure we get sticks in front and clear out the front for Henrik to see things. We've done it at times against this team in other matchups but tonight it wasn't enough."
New York, playing for the fifth time in eight days, lost for just the third time this month (9-2-1) and had its four-game overall point streak snapped (3-0-1).
Wennberg scored off the rebound of a shot by Bjorkstrand for his second of the game and 12th of the season to make it 3-1 at 9:47 of the second period.
Atkinson got his second of the game and career-high 29th at 4:12 of the third as he beat Lundqvist on the stick side. Atkinson also tied his career high of 53 points set last season.
"(The top two lines) were contributing today on offense and that's what we wanted to do," Wennberg said. "We want to be a top team and at the end in the playoffs we've got to get everyone going and this is a great sign we can do it."
Anderson, who had two goals in Columbus' 7-0 win at home over the New York Islanders on Saturday night, scored from in front in the final minute for his 14th. Fast then scored for the Rangers just before the final buzzer.
Wennberg got the Blue Jackets on the board 1:02 into the game when he deflected David Savard's shot down out of the air and past Lundqvist.
The Rangers tied it when Nash fired a shot from the right circle over Bobrovsky's glove at 4:07. Tortorella challenged for offside, but the goal stood after a review.
Columbus went ahead 2-1 with its second power-play goal in 14 games as Atkinson wristed a shot from the center point past Lundqvist at 6:47. That eclipsed Atkinson's previous career high of 27 goals set last season.
"Once we got it set up, I just saw that I had a bunch of time to wait, be patient and pick my spot of where I wanted to shoot, and luckily it went in," Atkinson said.
Lundqvist stopped a penalty shot by Brandon Saad in the final minute of the first period.
NOTES: The Blue Jackets, now 12-4-1 against Metropolitan Division teams this season, play 11 of their remaining 22 games in the division. ... Columbus improved to 28-7-3 when scoring first, and 25-1-2 when leading after two periods. ... The Rangers have allowed a power-play goal in four of their last five games. ... New York fell to 5-15-0 when trailing after two periods and 8-2-0 in the second game of back-to-backs. ... Lundqvist (402 wins) remained one victory behind Grant Fuhr for 10th place on the NHL's career list and one from tying Martin Brodeur for the most in a goalie's first 12 seasons. ... Rangers D Kevin Klein (back spasms) missed his third straight game.
Blue Jackets: At the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Rangers: Host the NHL-best Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.