Columbus had been on a bit of a skid over the last couple weeks. Could they snap out of it in an all-important home divisional game?
For most of the first period, the Columbus attack appeared stymied just like they were for much of the previous game in Raleigh. The league’s best PK unit shut down the league’s best PP unit again thanks to aggressive play at the blue line, preventing clean entries. Later in the period, Columbus tried more dumping into the zone, which seemed to have slightly more success.
The scoreless tie was broken with just under 2 minutes remaining in the first. Carolina exhibited great effort to keep the puck in the zone. Then they kept circulating the puck around the zone. Eventually the puck was delivered across the crease from Teuvo Teravainen to Sebastian Aho, who slammed the puck into a wide open net. What was especially frustrating about this goal is that it’s the kind of play that the Jackets have failed to execute recently.
Fortunately we didn’t have long to mope. Torts chose to respond with the Dubinsky line for the next faceoff. Dubi lost the draw, but active sticks from the forecheck regained possession in the neutral zone, allowing Ryan Murray and Cam Atkinson to get the puck into the offensive zone and onto the stick of Boone Jenner. Boone skated along the boards before cutting inside and across the front of the crease, before poking the puck through the shrinking gap between the goalpost and the skate of Cam Ward. It’s the kind of skill that allowed Boone to score 30 goals last year. He now has 9 goals on the season, and one in each of the last three games. Keep it up, man.
That goal came just 11 seconds after Aho’s goal. Then just 35 seconds later that same line struck again. Ryan Murray sent an outlet pass to a streaking Brandon Dubinsky, who carried the puck into the zone and fired one from the right faceoff circle past Ward. Good to see Dubi finally get back into the scoring column.
4 minutes into the second period, Dubinsky scored again off of a similar play. This time he reversed direction once he got to the right faceoff circle, but again chose to fire a long distance shot on goal. Jenner would have been there for the rebound, but instead the puck sailed over Ward’s left shoulder.
The fourth and final goal came halfway through the second and it’s the kind of thing poets write about. Hartnell had the puck at center ice but met resistance at the blue line. He sent a drop pass to the rookie Lukas Sedlak who carried the puck down the middle. Sedlak dropped it back to Sam Gagner, who fired a shot on goal. Sedlak then fell to his knees and batted the rebound into the net. Great effort by him to corral Hartnell’s pass and enter the zone, great pass to set up Gagner, then great effort again to get in position for the rebound. Great to see the kid’s hard work rewarded with a goal.
That goal was the end of the line for Cam Ward, who had played so well in the first meeting between the teams. His backup was the recently activated Alex Nedeljkovic. Nedeljkovic is an Ohio native, from the Cleveland suburb of Parma. Notably this is the same hometown as former Blue Jacket Dan Fritsche, as well as my mother.
While Ward gave up 4 goals on 19 shots, Nedeljkovic went a perfect 16/16 in 29:57 of ice time. Not bad for an NHL debut.
Worth noting in the third period was the much improved play of the Wennberg line, who had gone cold and who had earned some harsh words from Torts. They had two epic possessions in the third period, one lasting 1:43 and the other 1:11. Columbus tallied a total of 9 shots in those 2 shifts, with the fivesome of Wennberg, Foligno, Saad, Johnson, and Savard on the ice for most of it. These shifts inspired Aaron Portzline’s greatest tweet of all time:
If the #CBJ were the Allman Bros, those last two shifts by the top line were In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed and Whipping Post.— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) January 18, 2017
Remember how I complained in the preview about not enough high danger shots in front of the goal? Well, I’d say they did better tonight:
What did Torts think of tonight’s game?
Eh...it was OK
LOL. Thanks, coach.
The Jackets are back at it tomorrow night at home against the Ottawa Senators.