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Game 51 Recap: MAC-TION!

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In their second game of a back to back weekend, the Jackets found themselves in Ottawa, looking to keep themselves rolling against the struggling Senators. Who would be the big hero? How about Curtis McElhinney?

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

After a straight up bollocking of the Blues on Friday night, the Jackets got dressed, hopped on the plane, and got ready to face the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

The natural instinct is to expect a letdown game - particularly with the loss of both Murray and Wisniewski after last night - but the Jackets came out hard. Carrying play for much of the first period, they forced Robin Lehner to make several early saves - even leading on the shot clock - quite a rarity on the road.

Things began to turn midway through the period, when the Senators would receive back to back power plays thanks to a Corey Tropp hook and a Jack Johnson high stick, respectively. The PK was doing some decent work, but the real star was Curtis McElhinney, who made several impressive saves to help keep things scoreless through the end of the first period.

Fancystats reported the Jackets controlling possession at even strength fairly well, and that trend would continue into the second period, though neither team would find a goal. Shots on goal were eerily similar - 12 to 11 in both - and about the only really notable event (aside from both goaltenders making more saves) was Chris Neil taking a bit of a whack at C-Mac after one such save, and Dalton Prout taking an exception.

In the third period, things began to look like the two teams might need extra time to settle things, but that changed quickly when the line of Cam Atkinson, Ryan Johansen, and Scott Hartnell swarmed the Ottawa net. Ryan Johansen cut across the slot, firing the puck in, while both Hartnell and Atkinson went to the net. Camsanity sat at the side of the net, caught the rebound, took one shot into Lehner's pads, then followed up to deposit the puck into the net.

1-0 Columbus: Atkinson (11) from Hartnell (21) & Johansen (29) @ 04:13

Ottawa started to put some pressure on, but despite a few scrambles the Jackets did a good job of holding together, and it wasn't long before their efforts lead to a surprising reward.

Nick Foligno popped the puck out of the Jackets' defensive zone, past Codi Ceci, then charged down on Lehner with Ceci and Eric Gryba draped across his back. Muscling his way through, he hammered the puck through his former teammate, and suddenly the Jackets had a 2-0 lead.

2-0: Foligno (21) from Goloubef (3) @ 08:51

While the Jackets kept from suffering too much of a drop after Atkinson's goal, this time the Senators put the pedal down, and the team simply wasn't able to keep up. Scrambling around in their own zone, the Senators drove four abreast towards the Columbus crease, and a muffed shot block / clearing attempt for Dalton Prout lead to the defenseman literally handing the puck to Erik Condra as the forward went to the net.

2-1: Condra (5) unassisted @ 10:22

That goal revitalized the Senators, and it took a combination of some exceptional saves by McElhinney and some awful puck luck for Ottawa to keep Columbus in the lead, but they hung on into the final minutes of play, when the Senators finally had an opportunity to get Lehner out of his net for an extra attacker.

Usually, the Jackets' luck with an empty net means that we'd see a goal for the home team right about then, but this time Columbus got a bit of a surprise in their own favor. Scott Hartnell took the puck from David Savard as he cleared the defensive zone, scooted carefully past the red line, then lofted an alley-oop that bounced off of Erik Karlsson's hand before rolling down the ice and into the empty net.

3-1: Hartnell (12) from Savard (10) & Atkinson (11) - EN @ 18:44

This is about the time most fans in Kanata were heading for the exits, but there was one more goal left in this game, and a Jacket would find it.

Matt Calvert pushed the puck up ice to Jared Boll, who broke into the Ottawa zone with Mark Letestu as time wound down. Boll then did something totally unexpected: Made an excellent pass to Mark Letestu, who slipped past Ceci as the defender tried to line him up for a hipcheck, and fired a perfect shot to the top corner.

4-1: Letestu (6) from Boll (4) and Calvert (7) @ 19:47

After the puck dropped, it was just a matter of letting those last thirteen seconds tick away, and while the Jackets went to congratulate their teammate on the back to back wins at once end of the ice, Lehner was...not terribly pleased on his way to the tunnel.

Despite leading the shot clock and having some good possession for much of the game, Curtis McElhinney was a big reason the team was in a position to win tonight. He made big saves when called on, and looked as sharp in this game as I can remember him playing all season. It's great to see his teammates give him a solid effort in front of him. The risk of a slump after the win against St. Louis was there, and there were certainly times they looked like a team on the second night of a back to back, but when they needed to be solid, everyone stepped up.

The team will fly home and get a day to recover, but they're going to need to keep playing strong when they face the Kings Monday night.

On the other hand, who expected this? So why not see how long this run can last.