Canucks end 5-game homestand on low note
Blue Jackets' Nash, Williams hand Vancouver 5th shootout loss of season
Rick Nash's left knee held up while his hands were in good enough form to break the hearts of the Vancouver Canucks and etch his name in Columbus's record book.
The Blue Jackets captain scored once in regulation and then dealt the Canucks their fifth shootout loss of the season, beating goaltender Roberto Luongo to cap a 6-5 decision in Vancouver on Sunday night.
Nash's second-period goal was his 318th point in a Blue Jackets uniform, moving him atop the franchise's all-time list ahead of David Vyborny (317). The big left-winger also had two assists in his return from a sprained knee that cost him four games.
"He's impressive, the way he handles the puck and can take it to the net," said Nash's teammate Jason Williams, who also scored in regulation and the shootout.
"To see it first-hand and be on the same team, he's a very special player and he carries this team. There's a reason he's the captain, he's not the most vocal guy, but he leads by example and his work ethic and he did both tonight."
Nash raised his team-leading point total to 42 in 41 games this season and plans to participate in Sunday's NHL all-star game in Montreal if he doesn't experience a setback to his knee in games this week at Edmonton and Calgary.
After Williams, acquired from Atlanta in a trade this week, cut into a 3-1 Canucks lead at 17:04 of the second period, Nash pulled Columbus even less than two minutes later.
He skated behind the Vancouver net and fended off a check using his six-foot-four, 218-pound frame before wrapping the puck past Luongo for his 18th goal of the season.
The play started with an all-too-familiar scene of late, with a Canucks giveaway by defenceman Willie Mitchell that allowed Columbus to keep the puck in the Vancouver zone.
Giveaways continue to haunt the Canucks, who earned just one of a possible 10 points during a five-game homestand and missed a chance to gain ground on the Northwest Division-leading Calgary Flames, who fell 6-2 at Colorado on Sunday.
Vancouver coughed up the puck twice in its end, leading to Columbus's third and fourth goals. During their five-game losing streak, the Canucks have counted 53 giveaways to 23 for the opposition.
The Canucks also set a club record for futility by losing their seventh straight at home, eclipsing the previous mark set in 1970-71, their inaugural season, and equalled in 1978.
Centre Mats Sundin said the Canucks have to get tighter defensively.
"We have players that can put the puck in the net and score goals," he said. "We've got to make sure that we play even better defence than we did tonight, and we'll get our chances to score."
Steve Mason wasn't at his best in the Blue Jackets net but did record his 17th win in 28 games this season after stopping Kyle Wellwood in the shootout, while Sundin missed high. Mason has now stopped five of 10 shootout attempts this season.
He entered Sunday's matchup leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.81), save percentage and shutouts (six).
Mason appeared well on his way to victory in regulation until Henrik Sedin and Kevin Bieksa scored 90 seconds apart for Vancouver to erase a 5-3 deficit early in the third period. Bieksa was credited with his sixth goal of the campaign when his point shot was kicked away by Mason and the puck deflected off Nash and bounced over the goal line.
Columbus head coach Ken Hitchcock called it a bizzare game defensively between the two teams.
"We had no legs today and we were struggling," Hitchcock said after both clubs blew two-goal leads.
"[Mason] held us in in the third period when it got 5-5, I didn't know what was going to happen but he held us together. Quite frankly, neither team's defencemen could control the other team's forwards."
The Canucks had built their 3-1 lead midway through the second period on goals by Taylor Pyatt, Steve Bernier and Sundin.
Columbus then evened the contest in a span of one minute 53 seconds, with Williams igniting the NHL's worst power play. His first goal as a Blue Jacket, a one-timer from below the faceoff dot, halted an 18-game goalless drought.
Mike Commodore, Raffi Torres and Manny Malhotra also scored for the Blue Jackets, with the latter extending his points streak to five games. Kristian Huselius recorded two assists for Columbus, which improved to 22-19-4 on the season.
Vancouver (22-20-5) visits the NHL-leading San Jose Sharks on Tuesday before returning to GM Place for four games.
With files from the Canadian Press