On the heels of a shootout win against the Vancouver Canucks, the Columbus Blue Jackets took the ice Friday night against the Calgary Flames to finish up their annual Western Canada road trip. The Blue Jackets, winners of 3 out of their last 4 (who knew that was allowed?), looked to continue their winning ways of late and exact revenge against a Flames team that had beaten them 4-2 in Columbus just a few weeks earlier. Coach Tortorella decided to ride his hot goaltender, starting Joonas Korpisalo on the second night of the back to back.
FIRST PERIOD- TRAILING EARLY, AGAIN
The game opened with a chance off of the opening faceoff. Brandon Dubinsky won the faceoff and led a rush up ice, however the chance came to nothing. Shortly thereafter, Matt Calvert and Ladislav Smid had a minor disagreement next to the Calgary net, and both would leave for roughing.
Despite the wide open ice, neither team managed to generate a shot on goal while down a man. In fact, there had been no shots on net through almost 4 minutes of the game, a trend for the Blue Jackets over the last few games. Korpisalo finally saw the puck at 5:27, making his first save of the night.
7 minutes into the game, Columbus allowed a goal. Boone Jenner saw a breakaway denied by Flames netminder Karri Ramo. Jenner had snuck between the defense, was hit with a pass, and saw his shot turned aside. Immedaitely thereafter, Jiri Hudler put one past Korpisalo on the ensuing odd man rush. He was assisted by Sean Monahan and T.J. Brodie.
End to end action for the most part of the rest of the first period, but neither team can find the net again. Columbus trailed 11-7 in shots, and 1-0 on the scoreboard at the end of the first.
SECOND PERIOD- SOLID GOALTENDING AND A RESPONSE
Words cannot express how great Joonas Korpisalo was on this night. He made several outstanding saves, including a pair on a back to back situation early in the second period. While he may be young and still learning the craft, Korpisalo looks more and more to be a goaltender that will figure into the long term plans of the franchise, should his development continue as expected. He kept the Blue Jackets in the game early in the second period, as Calgary dominated possession and shots on goal.
Finally, nearly half the period gone, the Blue Jackets would respond. Seth Jones led a rush up ice and set up William Karlsson with an absolutely gorgeous pass. He skated into the zone and waited... waited... waited some more and just when you were about to yell at the television to tell Jones to do something with it, he saucered a pass to a trailing Karlsson, who slotted home into a gaping net. Tie hockey game. It was a glimpse at the offensive potential Jones brings to this team. Here's hoping for more of that going forward.
It was a slow second half of the period- the game nearly halted as far as chances went. Seth Jones had an attempt denied by Ramo, as did Alexander Wennberg.
At the end of the second, the game was tied 1-1. Shots in the second period favored Calgary 9-7.
THIRD PERIOD- HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE
The Blue Jackets pushed hard to open the third period. Seth Jones had an attempt just miss in the opening minute of the period. However, just seconds later, the push was rewarded. William Karlsson scored his second of the night on a 2-on-1 rush with Matt Calvert. William Karlsson forced a turnover to Cavert, who took the puck up ice. Karlsson followed, and received the goal mouth pass, and had no trouble slotting home for his sixth of the season. The Blue Jackets led for the first time all night at 1:42 of the third period.
Effectively, that was the end of the offensive highlights for Columbus. The Blue Jackets did not register a shot on net for the final 16 minutes of the game, which is nearly impossible to accomplish. After Karlsson's go ahead goal, the star of the night took center stage.
Joonas Korpisalo won this game for the Blue Jackets. It's as simple as that. On a night where the Blue Jackets were outshot 31-18, Korpisalo remained poised in the net, turning away attempt after attempt. While none of Calgary's chances could have really been considered 'high danger," it takes a strong netminder to keep the goal clean when the majority of play is in the defensive end for an entire period. Korpisalo was equal to the task on this night. Torts obviously has a lot of faith in his young netminder, as he has rolled him out for the last several games. I would expect to see him again Tuesday against the Islanders.
Really, I just want to heap more praise on Korpisalo. 30 saves (.968 save percentage), and the latest win in a 6-1-1 stretch for the goaltender. He's growing into his role, and hopefully can continue to develop as he goes forward. The team could use a real backup and plan B for Sergei Bobrovsky in case of injury, and Korpisalo may just be the man for the job.
Seth Jones is so good. I was critical of the Johansen trade, and wasn't sure we had gotten enough. Early returns appear as if I should ready a breakfast plate full of crow. Jones has looked to be a defenseman the likes of which this team has never had in franchise history. He's a big guy, but he smooth as glass skating and has excellent offensive instincts. If Jones can continue to develop, he could become a bona fide number one defenseman for this team.
I was extremely happy to see William Karlsson rewarded with two goals tonight. He makes so many little plays for this team, and plays hard minutes on the penalty kill, and was rewarded handsomely for his efforts tonight. He may never develop into a true goal scoring center, but he's currently on track to be a younger Mark Letestu- I'd be alright with that development.
Columbus hits the ice next Tuesday night at home against the New York Islanders. Faceoff is at 7:00 EST.