Cam Atkinson had not scored a goal in his last 18 games.
Put on the same line with a couple of the central figures from this past weekend's NHL All-Star Game, he finally found the net.
Ryan Johansen, the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game played on the Blue Jackets' home ice, also had a goal and Atkinson's other linemate, Nick Foligno, an All-Star captain, had two assists.
"I felt like I wasn't shooting enough," said Atkinson, who hadn't scored since Dec. 4. "Obviously, when you're playing with a couple of All-Stars, they can help you out a little bit. I just tried to shoot when I could and make plays."
Columbus coach Todd Richards stuck Atkinson on the same line with Johansen and Foligno hoping to light a fire under him.
"The thought process was, I was just trying to find the right combinations to get more offense," Richards said. "It's been a long time [for Atkinson]. He's a guy who has a knack for the net. He's got that offensive ability. It's been dry for a while for him, but it was great to see that tonight."
Mark Letestu added a goal for the Blue Jackets, who know they cannot lose many times the rest of the way if they want to make another charge — as they did last year under similar conditions — to make the playoffs.
"Our line could have had six goals out there," said Johansen, who had two goals and two assists in Sunday's wild 17-12 All-Star Game. "I'm happy with the result."
McElhinney, starting in place of top goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who will miss four to six weeks with a groin injury, made several big saves down the stretch.
Washington countered Columbus goals with scores of their own three times until the Blue Jackets finally took over late.
"Obviously, they came right back a couple of times, but for the most part we stayed on the path," McElhinney said. "We had a pretty solid third period to wrap it up."
Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist, and Andre Burakovsky and Troy Brouwer also scored for the Capitals, who have lost four in a row (0-3-1). Braden Holtby made 26 saves, and Matt Niskanen had two assists.
"We're just giving up too many goals right now," coach Barry Trotz said. "In this league, trying to win every game 5-4, you're not going to do it."
With the Blue Jackets up 3-2 heading into the third period, Atkinson ended up with a loose puck in the high slot and wristed a hard shot past Holtby high on the stick side for his ninth at the 5:20 mark.
"I was kind of stunned when the puck came back to me," Atkinson said. "I got it off as quick as I could and it found the back of the net."
The Capitals scored 33 and 36 seconds after the previous two Columbus goals. Marcus Johansson's shot from the left wing was blocked by McElhinney, but Kuznetsov was there in the slot, going down to one knee to fire in the rebound. It was his fifth of the season and came with 7:51 remaining in regulation.
But the Blue Jackets held on the rest of the way, Atkinson clanging a shot off the post after a steal and then Holtby making terrific saves on Johansen point blank and James Wisniewski on a late power play.
Men's college lacrosse: The Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team's scrimmage with Loyola Maryland scheduled for Saturday at Homewood Field has been canceled to allow the players and coaches time to mourn the death of freshman Jeremy Huber. "We feel it is not appropriate for us to participate in a scrimmage on Saturday so that our players, coaches and lacrosse family can deal with the tragedy of Jeremy Huber's death," Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said in a statement posted on the university's athletic website. "We are thankful to Charley Toomey and the Loyola men's lacrosse program for their understanding during this difficult time." Huber, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound defenseman from Las Vegas, was found dead in his dormitory Monday morning, Baltimore police and university officials said. He was 18.
Men's college lacrosse honors: Johns Hopkins was selected as the preseason favorite to claim the first Big Ten championship. Maryland was picked to finish second. Players to watch included Hopkins junior attackman Ryan Brown (Calvert Hall), senior long-stick midfielder Michael Pellegrino and senior attackman Wells Stanwick (Boys' Latin) and Maryland senior goalie Kyle Bernlohr, junior defenseman Matt Dunn (Loyola Blakefield) and senior midfielder Charlie Raffa.
Women's college lacrosse: Towson was picked as the preseason favorite in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll. The All-CAA preseason team included Towson senior attacker Andi Raymond, junior midfielder Breanna Hamm and senior goalie Kelsea Donnelly (South River) and James Madison senior defender Lexi Cross (Liberty) and junior midfielder Taylor Gress. Towson midfielder Michelle Gildea was honorable mention. ... Loyola Maryland was picked to finish first and Navy second in the Patriot League. Greyhounds senior attacker Annie Thomas (John Carroll) was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year; teammate Maddy Lesher, a junior defender, was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. They were joined on the All-Patriot preseason team by Loyola senior attacker Hannah Schmitt and senior midfielder Taryn VanThof and Mids senior attacker Loren Generi.
College football: Quarterback Keenan Reynolds will receive the Tony Rubino Memorial Silver Helmet Award as Navy's most outstanding player for the second straight year at next month's Touchdown Club of Annapolis 61st annual football banquet Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel on Riva Road. Kicker Brad Craddock will receive the Louis L. Goldstein Memorial Gold Helmet Award as Maryland's most outstanding player. For more information, go to annapolistdclub.com.
—Bill Wagner, Baltimore Sun Media Group
College baseball: Maryland is ranked a program-best 14th in D1Baseball.com's preseason rankings. Baseball America has the Terps at No.16. Maryland is the highest-ranked Big Ten team in both polls.
Women's college basketball: Chloe Stapleton and Marina Muenster each scored 13 points, but Navy couldn't overcome a 10-point first-half deficit and fell, 59-49, to host American (13-7, 8-1 Patriot League). The Mids (11-9, 5-4) shot 33.3 percent from the field in the first half and trailed 32-22.
NFL: The Washington Redskins have hired former New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell as defensive backs coach and Mike Clark as head strength and conditioning coach. Fewell replaces Raheem Morris, who is expected to join the staff of the Atlanta Falcons.
Special Olympics: The Unified Relay Across America, which will carry the Flame of Hope to the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, will pass Baltimore on May 26-27. For more information and specific locations, go to unifiedrelay.org.