The last time the Blue Jackets faced the New Jersey Devils, it was a fairly glacial affair that saw the Jackets register just 14 shots on goal for the entire contest, despite making their way out of the Prudential Center with a 3-1 victory.
Tonight, things got off to a much faster start, with Columbus exploiting a defense that looked like they'd already succumbed to a tryptophan laced food coma. Were it not for Corey Schneider between the pipes, it's likely that Cam Atkinson and David Savard would both have goals tonight, but as it turned out it would still be a Jacket opening the scoring, thanks to William Karlsson tipping home his own rebound at the side of the net. (And full credit to Nick Foligno for a textbook zone entry and pass down to Wild Bill to set the play.)
By the time the first period came to an end, the Jackets had matched their shot total from last game, while holding the Devils to just four shots despite giving up two separate power plays to the home squad. Ordinarily, this is where you might expect the club to push, putting the skate down and cementing their lead, but instead it would be Jersey who came out firing, nearly converting twice on the remainder of Dalton Prout's double minor for high sticking on former Jacket John Moore.
Sergei Bobrovsky warmed up quickly after his rather light early workload, but found himself undone just after the PK successfully left the ice.
Boone Jenner bobbled his outlet pass as he attempted to move up ice with Ryan Johansen just past the Columbus blue line, and Michael Cammaleri was ready to exploit the gaffe, driving into the zone and pulling the collapsing defenders with him before dishing over to Adam Henrique, who was able to fire a pass through traffic to beat Bob to his stick side. (The worst offender screening Sergei? None other than Jenner himself. A rough shift for #38, to say the least.)
Fortunately Bobrovsky was able to rebound quickly, because the Devils followed the tying goal with renewed vigor, including a pair of breakaway chances by Lee Stempniak that were turned away by the narrowest of margins.
Dalton Prout would commit another high stick, this time against Bobby Farnham, leading to coach Tortorella stapling him to the bench for the remainder of the contest once the struggling defender returned from the penalty box.
As the second period would down, the Devis had turned the tables on the shot clock, outshooting the Jackets 10-3, when Brandon Dubinsky's line with Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson finally began to generate some chances, culminating in Matt Calvert whacking home a puck that had rebounded off defenseman John Merrill's foot and was trickling through the crease.
The Devils put a few more shots on goal in the final minute and a half of the frame, pulling the shot clock to a 20-18 advantage for the visiting team, but the Jackets still maintained that one goal lead going into the final frame.
Early in the period, the Dubinsky line appeared to have struck again - with Dubi even raising his stick in what turned out to be premature celebration - but a miraculous bit of work by Schneider kept the game at 2-1, and on the following shift a frank exchange of views between alleged hockey player Jordin Tootoo and Andrew Bodnarchuk, leading to a stretch of 4 on 4 hockey that saw Columbus get a bit of their own luck when Damon Severson went one on one against Bobrovsky, and managed to whiff it high despite having a clear shot at the doorstep.
The 4 on 4 would expire without much more to report...and then things got weird.
After the referee put his arm up for a delayed penalty on Columbus, the Devils appeared to score when Adam Henrique cashed in his second of the game thanks to another excellent feed from Cammaleri - but before the goal horn had faded, Gregory Campbell was up to argue with the referee that the play should have been blown dead before Henrique ever got the puck.
Depending on which blog you read or what twitter you follow, you'll be told that Campbell definitely touched the puck during a clearing attempt, that he only appeared to tap it and never had control, that he put it around the boards, that he completely whiffed, and that the puck was never in Dallas on that day in the first place, and Jack Ruby set the whole thing up.
Regardless, after the officials gathered to discuss the play, it was confirmed that Campbell had touched up and that play should have been blown dead at that point, leading to the goal being wiped out.
The ensuing power play went dry (the Devils would be 0/5 for the night with the man advantage), and the Jackets spent the next 10 minutes just hanging on for dear life, relying on Bobrovsky to bail out the shortened defensive bench. Fortunately they were able to make that work, in part because Bob was on his game tonight, but it's a dicey way to play, and Torts was clearly pretty displeased with the lack of follow through in his postgame presser.
Still, a win is a win - just don't ask Devils fans what they thought of the officiating.
Final Score: Blue Jackets 2 - Devils 1
1. Bodnarchuk took on most of the minutes that otherwise would have gone to Prout after his benching, and he generally looked OK. Not the solution to the team's need for more top / 2nd pairing D by a long shot, but a solid depth guy doing exactly what he's supposed to.
2. Cam Atkinson wanted (and probably deserved) a goal pretty bad tonight. Great effort driving play - I think he's quite happy to have Dubi back.
3. William Karlsson got more ice time tonight than Saad or Johansen. Some of that was the amount of time that Columbus spent on the PK...but not all of it. Interesting to see where this goes. He's certainly hustling like a guy who wants a bigger role, and I think Torts may just give it to him.
4. Rough night for Boone. Snaps his goal scoring streak and just didn't look 100%. Hopefully he's a little more ready to go Friday.
5. The advanced stats on this one from War On Ice are about as rough as you'd expect.
6. I should probably make a joke about being thankful for a win here, but for those celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, we are very thankful for you, our readers and friends, and for the chance to share the game with you, good or bad. (But we wouldn't mind getting more good, please. Not one bit.)