CALGARY — The Columbus Blue Jackets stayed hot thanks to a big night from rookie centre Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Dubois earned his first career hat trick to lead the visitors to a 5-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday, the Blue Jackets’ 12th win in their last 13 games.
"We have a lot of experience in this room and I’m lucky enough to play with guys like (Artemi Panarin) and Cam (Atkinson), who are two amazing players," said Dubois. "I want to keep winning and keep improving. It’s a great environment to learn in."
Columbus’s sixth straight road victory moved them past the Philadelphia Flyers and into third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Blue Jackets are one point back of the second place Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We can’t control what the other teams do but if we keep winning, I think we’ll put ourselves in a pretty good spot," Dubois added.
Making it 2-0 at 12:23 of the first period, Dubois’s first of the night came on a one-timer past rookie Jon Gillies after being set up neatly by Panarin.
Dubois’s second, making it 3-0 at 3:55 of the second, came after a sensational end-to-end rush by Atkinson.
He capped off his memorable night with a power-play goal at 15:23 of the third.
"One of our keys to being able to compete this year is his play in the middle of the ice," said Columbus coach John Tortorella, who won his 128th game, moving him past Todd Richards into first on the club’s all-time list. "Put him with different people, play him against top people in the league, all the teams, and he has just thrived."
Eighteen goals on the season sets a team record for goals by a rookie, surpassing Rick Nash’s 17 in 2002-03. The 2016 fourth overall pick has 44 points on the season, three back of Zach Werenski’s record for points by a rookie, set last season.
"It’s a rookie that we were worried about giving him too much. He accepted everything and he wants more," said Tortorella of the 19-year-old, who stands 6-foot-3. "For now and for the future, that’s a huge position on a team that’s trying to build right up the middle with that type of size and he’s just doing everything."
Markus Hannikainen and Markus Nutivaara also scored for Columbus (44-29-5). Panarin and Atkinson had two assists apiece. The Blue Jackets wrap up their three-game road trip in Vancouver on Saturday.
Chris Stewart scored for Calgary (35-33-10), ruining Sergei Bobrovky’s shutout bid with 22 seconds left in the game. The Flames have lost seven straight games, being outscored 33-8 over that span.
"We’re feeling sorry for ourselves a little bit too much," said Flames veteran Matt Stajan. "These games are hard to play, but we’re in the NHL, we have to go after it a little bit better. We’re making way too many mistakes — turning pucks over, odd-man rushes — things that you lose hockey games because of."
Calgary outshot the Blue Jackets 38-28 on Thursday, but as has been the theme lately for the injury-riddled club missing its three top goal-scorers, the Flames struggled to get one past Bobrovsky, who improved to 36-22-5.
Hannikanen’s first goal since Nov. 4 made it 1-0 just 2:08 into the game. Right away, Calgary was on its heels.
"We didn’t help ourselves by putting ourselves in a tough spot right away," said Mikael Backlund. "The way we’ve been playing lately, losing, it’s always hard when you have to start chasing the game."
Gillies falls to 2-3-1.
With Sean Monahan (wrist), Matthew Tkachuk (upper) and TJ Brodie (upper body) among the injured Flames, Calgary lost defenceman Travis Hamonic (upper body) after he was shaken up in a collision late in the first period.
Notes: Flames have called up Spencer Foo from Stockton (AHL). He will make his NHL debut on Saturday against Edmonton… Johnny Gaudreau (family matter) missed his second game, but he will re-join the team on Friday… Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky (illness) left the game in the second period.