The arrangement of four forward lines has been a 12-piece puzzle that Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards had never been able to complete as his team shuffled its way through 10 losses in its first 15 games.
But Richards pieced together a portion suitable for framing on Saturday night.
A new line of center Ryan Johansen and wings Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky combined for three goals, seven points and a plus-5 rating in a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders that ended a five-game losing streak.
Johansen and Dubinsky had their first three-point games since they became Blue Jackets. Atkinson broke a six-game pointless streak with his first goal since Oct. 22. He took a game-high six shots and had a plus-3 rating, tying a career high.
Dubinsky, the senior partner, set the tone for the trio.
“He’s pretty much been the engine for our team, getting us going and working his bag off day in and day out,” Atkinson said. “Him and I, whenever we play together, we kind of feed off each other. It’s fun playing with him. He’s looking to make plays and he’s going to be one of the first guys on the forecheck.
“I kind of follow his lead and go from there.”
The Johansen line was “very good,” Richards said, but he had measured praise for all four of his lines. The five goals tied a season high and the Jackets (6-10) bested the Islanders in shots (29-26) and faceoffs (59 percent).
“I really thought all four lines were good,” Richards said. “We weren’t perfect. You aren’t going to play a perfect game. There were some moments that we needed to be better. But we got good minutes and good energy from most of the guys up front tonight.”
Bump and run
James Wisniewski scored the final goal on Saturday after the Islanders pulled goaltender Evgeni Nabokov for an extra skater.
It was no run-of-the-mill empty-netter. Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky corralled the puck and flipped it toward Wisniewski, who launched his shot from his goal line. Officially, it traveled 182 feet.
The goal was Wisniewski’s second of the season. He also had his 11th assist when he played a puck off the side board and fired a shot from the power-play point that was tipped in by R.J. Umberger to give the Jackets a 3-2 lead 27 seconds into the third period.
Wisniewski, never the strongest defender, ended the game as the No. 5 scoring defenseman in the NHL with 13 points. He has had a career-best 30 points in a season twice before (2009-10 with Anaheim and 2010-11 with Montreal).
Bobrovsky was credited with his first assist as a Blue Jacket. It was the third of his career. He had two in his first NHL season with Philadelphia in 2010-11.
Umberger said the get-tough talk of Richards that trickled down into the dressing room after a deflating 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday was effective.
“You could see there was a different attitude among our team,” Umberger said. “We were challenged and we responded.
“It took our whole team. We looked out of sync the last couple of games. Some guys were just on different pages. I don’t know if it was frustration or what, but (on Saturday) we were all bought in.”
The Jackets will practice this morning before departing for Washington, where they will play the Capitals on Tuesday night. The game is the first in a stretch that includes seven of eight on the road.
The Jackets are at Boston on Thursday. They will play host to Montreal on Friday before embarking on a five-game swing through Canada.
“This is going to be a tough stretch,” Richards said.