COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Riley Nash had a long wait to get his first goal as a Columbus Blue Jacket. When it finally came, it helped his team win.
Signed as a free agent last summer, Nash hadn’t been able to find the back of the net in 23 games this season. In fact, his last goal came 29 games ago when he was with Boston — against the Blue Jackets.
Nash redirected a pass from Zach Werenski in the second period to get the tally and had an assist on a first-period goal by Markus Hannikainen to help the Blue Jackets beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Thursday night.
“I thought it was coming 20-something games ago,” said Nash, who had a career-high 15 goals and 41 points with Boston last season. “It’s one of the things where you just have to keep plugging away, and it’s going happen sooner or later. You hope sooner rather than later, but you can’t get frustrated by it.”
Nash skated with Hannikainen and Lukas Sedlak on the fourth line, which had a productive night.
“You just want to see him get rewarded,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “I think it will loosen him up. We’re still looking for more speed out of him. All players want stats. They want to score goals, they want to be on that piece of paper. Hopefully, it will relax him and just allow him to play quicker. I like the line. I think the line did some really good things for us.”
Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin also scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 23 shots to help the Blue Jackets move ahead of Washington for the Metropolitan Division lead. Columbus has won two in a row and six of eight.
Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise scored for Minnesota, and Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. The Wild have lost two in a row and four of six.
“It’s gotten away from us, and we have to pull it back in,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Granlund’s slap shot from the slot started it , putting the Wild on the board 7:46 into the game.
Hannikainen tapped in a bouncing puck later in the period to tie it.
Early in the second period, Atkinson extended his points streak to nine games — tying his career high — when he beat Dubnyk from the right circle near the end of a power play. Nash scored a few minutes later, and Panarin’s wrist shot clanged in off the right post at 11:24 to make it a 4-1 game for Columbus.
Parise got one of them back 42 seconds later off a wrap-around, extending his point streak to six games, but Minnesota couldn’t get any closer as both teams played a scoreless third period.
“They capitalized on their chances,” Parise said. “I feel like we had a lot of odd-man rushes in the second period we weren’t able to convert on. It didn’t feel like we generated that many shots in the second. They converted when they got those opportunities, and we did not.”
NOTES: Tortorella coached his 1,200th NHL game, becoming the 18th coach in league history and the fifth active coach to reach that mark. … Wild D Greg Pateryn returned after missing one game because of illness. He replaced Nate Prosser. … Columbus F Anthony Duclair was scratched in favor of F Oliver Bjorkstrand, who was a healthy scratch for the past four games. Tortorella said Duclair is “dinged up” and day-to-day. … Columbus D Scott Harrington played in his 100th career NHL game. … Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois’ two assists gave him 14 points in his past nine games.