(AP) — Nikita Filatov‘s scoring touch is holding up in the NHL.
The 18-year-old became the first Columbus rookie to score three goals, helping the Blue Jackets beat the Minnesota Wild, 4-2, Saturday night.
"He’s a scorer and he looks like a scorer on the ice," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He’s a smart, smart offensive player. He positions himself, offensively, really well. He finds holes other people don’t look for."
Filatov has seven goals and 10 assists in 23 games with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch this season. He also scored eight goals at the recent world junior championships to lead Russia to the bronze medal.
Earlier this week, Filatov was voted by AHL fans to the PlanetUSA starting lineup for the upcoming 2009 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Charter Communications. He was recalled from the Crunch on Jan. 7 and now has four goals in six career NHL games.
"It’s unbelievable," Filatov said. "I have so many emotions, so many feelings. Unbelievable moment."
Derek Dorsett, who has six points in seven games with Syracuse this season, also scored for Columbus, playing its first home game after a successful cross-country trip they finished 4-2.
Another member of the 2008-09 Crunch, where he was 2-1-0 in three appearances earlier this year, rookie goalie Steve Mason made 21 saves to improve to 15-9-1 with the Blue Jackets. Fans chanted his name as the third period wound down.
Filatov opened the scoring, stealing the puck from Martin Skoula at the Wild blue line. With Filatov on a breakway, Wild goalie Josh Harding dove for the puck and Filatov went airborne and crashed into the goal after the puck crossed the line just 3:21 in.
Filatov later made it 3-1, snapping a shot from the left circle at 4:59 of the third period over Harding, and just 1:35 later, Filatov scored from the right circle.
The Blue Jackets’ young players and role players have had to contribute more due to injuries. Six regulars are out, not including backup goalie Pascal Leclaire. The injury list includes three of the team’s top six scorers, led by points leader and captain Rick Nash.
"It’s just a lot of fun to play with those guys," Columbus veteran forward Michael Peca said of the rookies. "I think we knew our depth in the organization would be tested during this stretch. I think we’ve come through pretty well."