The Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed back Ryan Murray to the lineup against Edmonton Friday night. The young left often played on his "off side" with four left-handers on the blue line, but it was still good just to see the former #2 overall pick back on the ice.
Both the Jackets and the Oilers played the previous night, and perhaps there were some tired legs on the defensive end (see: 66 combined shots), but the teams played about as entertaining a game as you'll see for a meaningless regular season matchup.
The scoring got started early in this one. After Edmonton got the puck in deep, the Jackets broke out of their own zone and caught the opposition defense in a bit of a bind. Wennberg found fellow rookie Marko Dano who skated the puck into the offensive zone down the right side with Hartnell to his left. Dano got some space and absolutely sniped one past Ben Scrivens in net. First shot of the game, and it was 1-0 Jackets.
A few minutes later, Jared Boll tussled with Luke Gazdic - no word on what caused the two combatants to fight other than a young guy trying to make a statement on the road. The Blue Jackets had two power play opportunities in the middle of the period, and the results were largely disappointing, the second one in particular. Columbus then had to kill off a penalty of their own when Corey Tropp went off for tripping.
They managed to finish off the kill and with a few minutes remaining in the opening frame, Alex Wennberg took a stick to the face. His chin was cut so the CBJ got the four-minute variety on the power play. With time winding down, Cam Atkinson fired home a one-timer on a feed from Nick Foligno the put the Jackets up 2-0 heading into the break. It was Cam's 2nd goal in as many nights.
Just 17 seconds into a power play after Anisimov went off for hooking, Jordan Eberle got time and space to the right circle and beat Bobrovsky. The PK wasn't particularly good as Edmonton exploited the middle of their offensive zone, as Nugent-Hopkins was able to connect a pass from the half wall to the opposite faceoff dot to Eberle.
Just a few minutes, the Jackets compounded their problems wen Johansen went off for tripping. Things got a little whacky a minute into the power play for Edmonton. Kefblom gained the zone to Bobrovsky's right and fired one around the dasher toward the end boards. The Oilers were already a bit deep into the zone, but Bob left his net to play it. In a bit of a throwback to the Game 4 Fleury gaffe, the puck took an odd bounce (appeared to hit a seam in the boards) and kicked out to the front of the net where Bob had just vacated. Derek Roy was there to put it into the empty net and the game was suddenly tied at two.
The Jackets answered a few minutes later on a rush. Nick Foligno stopped on a dime coming into the slot, spun, and fired to a streaking Artem Anisimov. Arty had plenty of net to work with and put it home to make it 3-2 for the home team.
In the final minute of the period, Edmonton was able to tie it again. The puck went from point to point as Schultz passed it across to Ference. Kevin Connauton was battling in front of the net and Bob had no chance to see the puck. Ference blasted it past Bobrovsky and the game was once again tied.
Early in the 3rd, the Jackets took back-to-back penalties - first Connauton for tripping, then Wennberg 34 seconds later for hooking. Jordan Eberle bobbled the puck to the doorstep on Bob's right. He gathered himself and glided a through-the-legs pass toe Nail Yakupov. Nail was waiting and ready at the top of the circle and fired a shot to the far post. Bob had moved to his right, anticipating the shot from Eberle. Edmonton had their first lead of the night.
The tank appeared to be back on after a rough 2nd period and the 5-on-3 goal to start the 3rd. Of course, it can't be that easy. The Jackets continued to fight and drive play into the Edmonton zone. Late in a shift, the "kid" line was buzzing around with some good chances. Finally, Wennberg fired a shot at Scrivens. The rebound popped out in the crease, and in classic Scott Hartnell fashion, Hartsy jammed home the rebound for his 20th goal of the season.
WIth that, the "tank" fans of both teams were disappointed as the game was headed for a three-point finish (I'm sure Jeff was calling for the return of the tie or to change the point scoring system).
There has been rumblings about implementing the AHL 3-on-3 overtime after a few minutes of 4-on-4. These two teams showed why 4-on-4 alone can be so entertaining. In a bit of a track meet, these teams went back and forth nearly non-stop in the extra five minutes. They combined for seven shots on net, a crossbar, and some great action end to end. The goalies were both up to the task, so the winner would be decided via the skills competition.
The Jackets led off with Letestu, who was denied doing basically the same move he always does. Bob was up to the task, with some help from the post on Edmonton's tries. Johansen went out a little bit wide on his attempt, but still slowed down to barely moving. His angle seemed to limit his chances, he ran out of space, and fired one over the crossbar. Anisimov was third, but ran out of space on his backhand attempt. Jack Johnson went fourth and fired wide (never heard that before). In the fifth round, Alexander Wennberg channeled his inner-2013/2014 Ryan Johansen as he slowed down and went forehand-backhand at least half a dozen times before firing a forehand. The puck caught Scrivens but had enough to get across the line.
Final: 5-4 CBJ (SO)
The win makes it three in a row for Columbus, even with icing some questionable lines (Was Adam - Johansen - Tropp a thing?). Bob struggled in the middle period, but was lights out in the shootout. No practice Saturday after three games in four days. The team hosts Carolina Sunday.
-A three-game win streak!
-The kids - if Dano and Wennberg can build on this last half of the season....wow.
-Foligno added a couple of assists on some really nice plays.
-The first home win a month.
Bottom of the Barrel
-A three-game win streak...NOW??
-Bob has stopped 73 of his last 74 shots faced before surrendering three in the 2nd period.
-Something to watch: Johansen has 0-1-1 (with a -2) in his last five games. He did have the shootout goal in Carolina, but he has just one goal of the non-shootout variety in the last 13 games (1-4-5). Coasting, injured, or something else?