COLUMBUS, Ohio - R.J. Umberger badly needed a goal. The Blue Jackets were desperate for a win. With one flick of his wrist midway through the third period last night, Umberger took care of both.
Umberger scored his first goal of the season at 11:14 of the third period, and the Blue Jackets snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks before 14,168 in Nationwide Arena.
"It was big for our team, the timing of the goal," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "It looked like he shed some pounds when the puck went in the net.
"When things aren't going well, frustration starts to creep in and guys take it personally. I know R.J. was taking it personally. You want to help the team, and what a great time to be able to do that."
Marian Gaborik and Ryan Johansen also scored for the Blue Jackets (3-5-0). Columbus earned its first home victory of the season.
Johansen's second goal of the season, an empty-netter with 27 seconds remaining, capped the scoring.
The Canucks (5-4-1) looked tired and lethargic in the fourth game of a seven-game road trip, even though they outshot the Blue Jackets 13-2 in the first period and 38-29 in the game.
Henrik Sedin scored Vancouver's only goal, a power-play marker midway through the second period.
"Don't let the shots fool you," Vancouver coach John Tortorella said. "We didn't play enough in the areas to score goals. When we did, the goalie made some pretty good saves.
"It's a matter of willingness. They'll let you play on the outside all night long. For most of the minutes, that's what we did. When we got in the blue area and got people in front, we got some chances."
The game featured both teams' backup goaltenders.
Curtis McElhinney made his first start of the year for the Blue Jackets, and he stopped 37 of 38 shots. He robbed Chris Higgins with a right pad save with 48.0 seconds remaining to preserve a 2-1 lead.
It was his first NHL game since Dec. 31, 2011, when he played for the Phoenix Coyotes.
"That's a long time, and it's great to be back," McElhinney said. "I was just focused on playing well. This team needed me to play a good game tonight, and I'm glad I could deliver."
Vancouver's Eddie Lack, meanwhile, gave starter Robert Luongo his second night off this season. Lack stopped 27 of 28 shots, but he was placed in a bad position by Canucks forward Chris Higgins on Umberger's game-winner.
Umberger skated behind Higgins and gathered a slick pass from Johansen just a few strides in front of Lack. Umberger gathered the puck and snapped off a wrister that whizzed under Lack's glove.
It was a much-needed goal for Umberger. After five consecutive seasons of 20-plus goals, Umberger dipped to only eight goals in 48 games last season, and he was goalless through the first seven games this season.
"I've had so many chances the last few games," Umberger said. "It's always nice to get the first one. I wasn't worried about it, because I feel like I was playing pretty good. But if it had gone much longer, yeah, I probably would have started getting worried."
The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead 3:27 into the game.
Artem Anisimov turned and fired the puck from the top of the right circle. Gaborik extended his stick and used the blade to lift Anisimov's shot up and over Lack's left pad.
The Canucks tied the score at 10:42 of the second after Blue Jackets rookie defenseman Ryan Murray was penalized for hooking.
It was not a typical goal by Sedin, who turned NFL fullback and plowed the puck into the net after Ryan Kesler put it in the slot with a nifty feed between his legs.
NOTES: Gaborik's goal gave the Blue Jackets their first lead in 209 minutes, 7 seconds. They last led in the second period of an Oct. 10 loss to the Boston Bruins, a span of four games. ... After missing three games for what the Blue Jackets described as "personal reasons," LW Nick Foligno returned to the lineup. ... Vancouver was without C Jordan Schroeder after he suffered a second-period leg injury on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Canucks recalled C Jeremy Welsh from AHL Utica. ... With McElhinney seeing his first action for Columbus, only two NHL teams have yet to play their backup goalies: the San Jose Sharks and Boston.