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Blue Jackets 5, Flyers 3: Hello darkness, my old friend

Cam Atkinson’s hat trick leads Blue Jackets past Flyers in critical game between playoff hopefuls.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

“Playoffs? Playoffs? You talking about playoffs? I just hope we win a game!”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol isn’t as colorful as the former Colts coach Jim Mora is, but even the stoic Hakstol has to be wondering when his club will breakout of their current skid.

Columbus scored twice in just 11 seconds in the first period and held on for a 5-3 win on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers got within a goal a pair of times, but watched Columbus’ tight defense and goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky shut them down in the third period.

Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere and Andrew MacDonald scored for the Flyers and Alex Lyon made 18 saves in relief of Petr Mrazek, who allowed four goals on 10 shots. The Flyers did breakthrough on the power play, going 1-for-3, and killed off the lone Blue Jackets power play, but were outplayed at even strength for good periods of the game.

Oliver Bjorkstrand and Boone Jenner scored at the 9:41 and 9:52 marks, respectively, to give Columbus a two-goal lead early in the first. Giroux would respond a few minutes later with his 26th of the season at the 11:34 mark, but Cam Atkinson would restore the Blue Jackets’ two-goal lead with less than two minutes until the intermission.

The Flyers got a quick start in the second, closing the gap to 3-2 thanks to a Shayne Gostisbehere power play goal just 14 seconds in. The power play has been ice-cold lately for the Flyers, who got one they badly needed, and ditto for Gostisbehere, as it’s his first goal in 19 games.

But Columbus would restore their two-goal lead rather quickly with Atkinson adding his second of the game 3:09 later on a slap shot down the wing that would make it 4-2 and chase Mrazek in the process. While the first three Blue Jackets goals were rather difficult to stop, this is one Mrazek would like to have back.

Andrew MacDonald provided a response for the Flyers after a really good shift by the Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek line. MacDonald got some extra space from the Columbus defense, walked in and blasted slap shot off the post and in behind Bobrovsky to make it 4-3 with 7:37 left in the second period. Travis Sanheim and Travis Konecny picked up assists on the goal, MacDonald’s sixth of the season.

The Flyers had some glorious chances early in the third period to find an equalizer, but Nolan Patrick sent a chance on the doorstep high and wide and then the Blue Jackets turned up the defensive pressure. Columbus’ forecheck and puck possession took center stage and helped to suffocate the Flyers in the final 20 minutes. When they did escape their own zone, the Flyers were held to the outside and didn’t generate much towards Bobrovsky.

With 1:53 left after an icing call on Columbus, Hakstol pulled Lyon for the extra attacker. The Flyers controlled all three face-offs after pulling Lyon, but were turned aside on a final flurry by Bobrovsky and sent packing. With time ticking away Atkinson would finish off the Flyers with his third of the night to send the Flyers to a 5-3 loss.

The Flyers are back in action on the road in Carolina to play the Hurricanes on Saturday night. As if they weren’t already, they’ll be fighting for their playoff lives from here on out folks, but let’s just hope they can win a game.