The Blue Jackets are a bad hockey team, at least according to the standings. The Dallas Stars are not. Tuesday night, they closed Nationwide Arena for the calendar year 2015. Curtis McElhinney remained in net, following a solid performance against the Florida Panthers. Captain Nick Foligno also returned to the lineup, drawing in on the 4th line next to Ryan Johansen, who is "going through the process." The highlights:
FIRST PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Your CBJ starters tonight: Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, Ryan Murray, Jack Johnson, Curtis McElhinney
BLUE JACKETS GOAL!! Boone Jenner!! Jenner hammered at the puck after a scramble in the crease, giving him his 14th of the season at 0:35. Assists to Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky.
Where’s THAT start been all season?
The Jackets promptly allowed the next 5 shots on goal in the game, because of course they did.
BREAKAWAY DENIED! McElhinney turns away Jason Spezza after a turnover in the neutral zone. Great save by the netminder.
Boone Jenner had a couple more shots on net at 5:45. He clearly had a point to prove.
Dallas goal. After another scramble to McElhinney’s right, and a few pad saves, the puck was cleared to the front of the net, where Colton Sceviour tied the game at 1 at 6:03.
Columbus, since scoring the opening goal, has been outshot 11-3.
CHANCE! Ryan Johansen was denied on the doorstop following a rebound.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL!! Kevin Connauton with his first of the year! Connauton buries it at 7:28. Assists to Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen.
Ryan Johansen had looked really good tonight.
Gregory Campbell with a great defensive move to stop Patrick Sharp.
Post. Patrick Sharp rang one off the iron at 10:30. Sharp even celebrated, thinking it went in the net.
Stars power play. Fedor Tyutin went off for holding at 11:54.
The Blue Jackets killed the penalty successfully.
The speed of the Stars was much, much greater than the Blue Jackets. That much was evident on this night.
POST! Connauton let one fly from the blueline and hit the post at 15:00.
Columbus clearly came out with a plan of: hit the Stars, and throw pucks at the net. To their credit, it was working early.
JACKETS ON THE POWER PLAY!! Jordie Benn cleared the puck over the glass for delay of game at 15:44.
Shorthanded chance denied! After a BAD turnover in the defensive zone (a mixup between Ryan Murray and Dubinsky) while on the man advantage, Jamie Benn saw his shot denied by the pad of McElhinney.
The Stars successfully killed the penalty, allowing 2 shots.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL!! Matt Calvert hammered one past Kari Lehtonen at 18:35. William Karlsson found him in the slot after Rene Bourque won a board battle.
The Blue Jackets went into the locker room up 3-1, despite being outshot 17-14. Defense? Optional.
SECOND PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Connauton, after the first period: "We’re a team that’s tired of playing away from our identity, tired of losing games."
Goalie change for Dallas. Antti Niemi took over in goal after Lehtonen saved 11 of 14 in the first period.
End to end action to open the second period, with neither team having a solid scoring chance for the first 3 minutes.
Saad with a chance! Turned away by Niemi at 3:50 following an attempt to walk around a Stars defenseman.
CHANCE! Johansen walked around John Klingberg, threw it in front looking for Rene Bourque, but Bourque had let up, and it came to nothing. Johansen should have definitely taken the shot himself.
Dallas goal. Tyler Seguin cuts the deficit to one at 8:23 of the second period. Jamie Benn found Tyler Seguin off a long pass from the Dallas goal line. Assists to Benn and Klingberg.
Brandon Saad backhand! Neimi made the save at 9:59 off of a broken play.
Dallas makes a multitude of touch passes, always looking for space and speed. These are traits the Jackets should be looking to learn from and copy going forward.
Chances for Dallas. Several scrambles in front of the net, but McElhinney and the defense clear it at 12:30.
Calvert denied at 13:47. Bourque, Karlsson, and Calvert had excellent shifts.
Lots of shots from the blue line thus far. Murray, Tyutin, Johnson, and Connauton all saw pucks get through on net, which was a noted point of emphasis for Coach Tortorella.
Ales Hemsky for Dallas took a shot from Fedor Tyutin off the leg at 15:04, and was in serious pain on the bench.
Stars on the power play. Scott Hartnell took a slashing penalty in the offensive zone at 15:38 as the puck moved into the Jackets defensive zone. The Jackets killed the penalty, allowing only a couple shots on goal, including one from Jamie Benn off the post.
CHANCE! Dubinsky missed the mark on the short side at 18:15.
KNEEL BEFORE SAAD. Brandon Saad restored the two goal lead at 18:43. It was his 14th goal, tying him for the team lead with Hartnell and Jenner, and extended his career best point streak to six games. Assists to Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno.
The Jackets went into the second intermission up 4-2, trailing in shots 27-26.
THIRD PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Dallas goal. Patrick Sharp again draws the deficit to one at 1:12 off of a 2 on 1 rush. Jason Spezza and Mattias Janmark got the assists. It followed a turnover in the neutral zone.
Atkinson denied on the doorstep at 2:30.
Update: Ales Hemsky out for the rest of the game with a lower body injury.
JOHANSEN DENIED! A tic-tac-toe move with Johansen and Campbell saw Joey denied at 3:30.
Jackets on the power play! Tyler Seguin went off for holding the stick of Scott Hartnell at 4:37.
Another shorthanded chance for Dallas. Columbus was trying incredibly hard to gift the Stars the tying goal tonight.
Brandon Saad went off at 6:19 for holding the stick, nullifying the final 20 seconds of the power play. It was a weak call at best.
Excellent kill from Jack Johnson and Gregory Campbell. The Blue Jackets held on with 11:25 to go.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL!!! Scott Hartnell picks off a Niemi clearance, and buries into a wide open net at 9:58.
BREAKAWAY SAVE!! MCELHINNEY ABSOLUTELY ROBS PATRICK SHARP OFF THE ENSUING FACEOFF!!
Coincidental minors for roughing at 13:18. Rene Bourque and Johnny Oduya, leading to two minutes of 4 on 4.
Dallas pulled Antti Niemi with 5+ minutes to go. McElhinney made the save and held on.
Jamie Benn denied Brandon Dubinsky’s shot with 15:05 gone (who would’ve thought I’d type that tonight?).
Both penalties expired as Niemi returned to the net.
Matt Calvert was injured on an open ice hit at 16:35. His left leg appeared to be the issue, and he went straight to the locker room.
Niemi was pulled again at 17:40.
Chants of "C-B-J" rang throughout Nationwide Arena. It’s been awhile.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL!!! Rene Bourque ices it with an empty netter at 19:45!! He deserved to be rewarded for his hard work this evening. Assists to Nick Foligno (his third of the night) and Brandon Dubinsky.
*** Brandon Dubinsky
** Brandon Saad
* Curtis McElhinney
What a win. What a way to close out 2015.
Brandon Saad. William Karlsson. Boone Jenner. Brandon Dubinsky. Ryan Johansen. Brandon Saad. Nick Foligno. Curtis McElhinney. All played exceptionally well tonight.
Total team win. Every single guy contributed to this one in some way.
Forget all the drama surrounding this bunch. Celebrate this one.
Columbus opens 2016 at home against the Washington Capitals on Saturday night. Faceoff is at 7:00 EST.