First off, Happy New Year to you and yours! From all of us here at The Cannon, thanks so much for being part of the community and making this place what it is. Without the readers and all of you commenting, this is just a few guys writing on the Blue Jackets for no reason.
Secondly, apologies to all for the missed game thread yesterday. Much like you, we were all a little busy with family and friends ringing in the new year. This is also why the game recap is up a bit late - hopefully you've recovered from last night and can read these words coherently. Plus, if you're in central Ohio, there's some football game tonight or something?
Word came out just before the puck was to drop that Nick Foligno signed a six-year contract extension with the team, locking him up through 2020-2021. Jeff has you covered here. Oh, and Foligno signed the extension just in time before his 500th NHL game against the Wild.
Now, to the game...I'll keep this recap short since it's already a bit late. The first period started out rather disjointed on both sides. The Jackets were able to pile up a 5-1 shot advantage midway through the opening frame, but neither team had very good chances.
Then, Columbus took back-to-back penalties. First, Kevin Connauton sat for two minutes for delay of game - puck over glass. The PK held Minnesota at bay for their 25th consecutive successful kill.
Unfortunately, just a few minutes later James Wisniewski went off for holding. This time the Wild's PP was able to find the back of the net, thanks to some tic tac toe passing. Bobrovsky had no chance as Zach Parise buried his 14th goal of the season from the doorstep to Bob's left at 15:58.
By that point, the shot chart had tilted to the Wild's favor, to the tune of 12-5. Yes, 11 straight opposition shots. It was not a good way to finish the period.
The middle 20 minutes was not a whole lot different. Sloppy passing, not a lot of offensive pressure or too many shots, but Minnesota wasn't able to capitalize either. (If you want to be frustrated next game, count how many consecutive clean passes the CBJ can make. I bet you won't be able to get past three more than once)
The momentum did start to shift during the period, with the Jackets actually getting a couple decent cycles going and a few good looks. Ryan Suter went to the box at 14:55 for tripping, but the ensuing Jackets power play was...well, it was rough.
Then, in the final minute, the Jackets found a bit of puck luck. After a scramble in front of the Wild net, the puck squirted out to left half wall. Defenseman Kevin Connauton pinched in and wristed a seemingly harmless shot to the net. Darcy Kuemper had not quite recovered in goal for Minnesota and Connauton tied it up at 19:14.
Just four minutes into the final period, Ryan Suter went to the box again, this time for holding Brandon Dubinsky. The following power play once again looked disjointed and unorganized, but the boys finally set things up in the Minnesota zone. After a nice cycle, Kevin Connauton received the puck at the point from Brandon Dubinsky. Connauton feathered a pass to his left to the opposite point and David Savard blasted a one-timer past Kuemper at 5:57 for the 2-1 lead.
The momentum definitely had shifted as the Jackets had some long sustained offensive pressure and puck possession but could not find that insurance goal. At the other end, Bobrovsky had some great sequences, including bailing out a horrendous turnover by Connauton. Bob was the Bob we have seen all month long and the defense was there to clear any rebounds.
The penalty kill got their mojo back and killed off a penalty in the middle of the period. Finally, as time was closing on regulation, the Wild pulled their goalie for the extra attacker. After a questionable icing call (the Wild Defenseman could have played the puck but slowed up), the Jackets found that empty net goal - perhaps a shocking event given how many times they have failed to do that this season.
And who else would it be but snake-bitten Ryan Johansen. RyJo potted the empty-netter at 19:37 for his first goal in - get this - TWELVE games.
Final 3-1 Jackets
Wow, what a month. The team was sitting at 6-15-2, and despite more injuries piling up, they found a way to go 10-1-1 in December. This marks the third month in franchise history the team won double digit games. 21 of a possible 24 points isn't too shabby, eh? Back to .500, but still eight points out of a playoff spot. Everybody else is winning, too.
-Bob. Made 28 of 29 saves.
-Connauton...this guy, man. Not a bad pickup. Another goal and another assist for the waiver pickup.
-Savard. In addition to the GWG, Savvy had 7 hits (led team) in 23:19 TOI.
-Ryan Johansen. Joey gets the monkey off his back a bit with the late goal. He also went an absurd 13-3 in the faceoff circle. With the lack of center depth right now, Joey's faceoff ability has been huge for the team. This was the 9th game of the month that Johansen logged 19:50 or more in ice time. Two of the times he did NOT hit that mark? The team lost.
It wasn't the prettiest game, but Bob was Bob and the Jackets offense found just enough to pull out a win. The style probably is not a good recipe going forward but two points is two points. Mark Letestu may be returning in the coming week and potentially Cam Atkinson as well. Any forward depth will be welcome as five forwards each logged more than 18 minutes of ice time last night. The power play takes over first, yes...first place in the NHL at 24.4%.
Next up: Saturday at Phoenix