When Mikko Koivu announced his retirement Tuesday, it created an opportunity for Kevin Stenlund to take on a more regular role with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
So far, so good.
Stenlund capped Columbus' big third period with the game-winning goal with 1:14 left, and the Blue Jackets stopped Chicago’s three-game win streak with a 6-5 victory over the Blackhawks on Thursday night.
“It was a big confidence boost for me,” Stenlund said.
Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic and Michael Del Zotto also scored in the third as Columbus won for the third time in four games. Cam Atkinson collected his franchise-record 15th career short-handed goal and three assists, and Roslovic also scored in the second.
The 24-year-old Stenlund has two goals and three assists in four games this year. But he is in line for more playing time after Koivu decided to retire during his 16th NHL season.
“He's been on the outside, waiting for his opportunity,” coach John Tortorella said. “Practicing and taxi squad roster, all that stuff, and he gets an opportunity.”
Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat each had a goal and two assists for Chicago, which dropped to 4-2-1 at home. Rookie defensemen Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin each scored their first NHL goal 56 seconds apart in the second period. Pius Suter also scored for the Blackhawks.
“Just got to learn how to close out those games,” Kane said.
Chicago led 4-2 after Kane sent a wrist shot past a screened Joonas Korpisalo for a power-play goal 29 seconds into the third. But Columbus responded with two goals in 80 seconds.
First, Jenner slammed home a rebound from right in front for his fourth. Then Roslovic got his second of the game when he beat Kevin Lankinen from the bottom of the right circle 7:59 into the period.
“We did little things as the game went on that gave them momentum and to their credit they capitalized on their chances,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said.
After DeBrincat got the lead back for the Blackhawks at 13:05, the Blue Jackets bounced back again. Atkinson banged a shot off the cross bar and Del Zotto knocked it in for the tying goal with 2:41 to go. Then Stenlund put Columbus ahead to stay with his eighth goal in 40 career regular-season games.
“We still had some breakdowns. We still gave up some chances,” Tortorella said. “But I just liked the way we made some plays.”
Beaudin committed a costly turnover in the first period, and Columbus turned the miscue into Atkinson's fourth goal at 12:10. Atkinson poked the puck away from Beaudin near the blue line, got it back and beat Lankinen from the high slot for a 1-0 lead.
It was Atkinson's third short-handed goal of the season and No. 15 for his career, snapping a tie with Rick Nash for the franchise record. He also scored a short-handed goal on a penalty shot during Monday night's 3-2 victory over Carolina.
“I don't know. It seems like short-handed goals are easier for me to come by right now,” a chuckling Atkinson said.
The Blackhawks played without defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Andrew Shaw. Murphy could be sidelined for two weeks with a right hip injury, and Shaw was placed on injured reserve after entering the concussion protocol.
Elvis Merzlikins was activated from injured reserve and served as the backup for Korpisalo. Merzlikins, 26, had been sidelined by an upper-body injury since he got hurt during practice on Feb. 3.
Columbus also recalled defenseman Andrew Peeke from its taxi squad. Peeke, who turns 23 on March 17, recorded an assist while playing 17:40 in his first game of the season, replacing Dean Kukan in the lineup.
Mitchell and Beaudin became the first pair of defensemen to score their first NHL goals within a minute of each other since Mickey Volcan and Stuart Smith for the Hartford Whalers on Jan. 14, 1981, according to STATS.
The teams play again on Saturday night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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