With bellies full of turkey and shopping carts full of doorbuster deals, the Blue Jackets welcomed the Ottawa Senators in for a Black Friday tilt, hoping to continue their recent hot streak and stay atop the tight race in the Metropolitan Division.
The Senators didn’t want to make it easy. Looking to break out of a two game losing streak they looked to Craig Anderson in net and the recently acquired Matt Duchene, hoping to find the missing ingredients for a win.
The Senators had to lean hard on Anderson in the early going. At one point the Jackets were outshooting Ottawa 7-1, and the crowd at Nationwide had a couple of near goal experiences, the most notable a Bjorkstrand shot that had Anderson beat but clanged off the pipe.
So, of course, the Senators would open the scoring.
Tom Pyatt and former Jacket Derick Brassard would spring an odd man rush on the defenders, getting around Jack Johnson and forcing David Savard out of the lane so Brassard was able to make a perfect pass over to Pyatt for the opening goal.
This marked the first time the Jackets failed to open the scoring in more than five games the team didn’t get mad - they got even.
Cam Atkinson poked the puck from Alex Burrows and had nothing but clean ice in front of him, charging down to challenge Anderson and slipping it in for the tying score.
The Jackets would be asked to kill an early Senators penalty in the second before getting several opportunities of their own, but things would stay locked in the 1-1 tie until Markus Nutivaara broke things open again with a nice shot from the blue line.
Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher did challenge the goal, arguing that Tyler Motte had interfered with Anderson, but the review upheld the call on the ice to give Columbus the 2-1 lead, though that advantage would be sadly shortlived.
Artemi Panarin had a rough night on several levels, but perhaps his worst moment came when he turned the puck over to Mike Hoffman at the Columbus blue line, and Hoffman would waste no time to get in and take his shot, tucking it over Sergei Bobrovsky’s shoulder to tie things back up once again.
Even though the Jackets had a wide advantage on the shot clock and had arguably been the better team for much of the first two periods, there was a real sense that this game could go either way, particularly with Anderson standing on his head against several of Columbus’ best opportunities.
The only question was who wanted it more?
If the first two periods had been tilted in favor of the Blue Jackets, the first five minutes of the third period were all Ottawa, and it took some serious defensive work and a couple of big saves from Bobrovsky to weather the storm.
The biggest moment was after Cam Atkinson was forced to hook down Jean-Gabriel Pageau around the net, likely saving a goal, and the Senators power play responded with a vicious intensity. Bobrovsky’s skill and a healthy dollop of luck kept Columbus alive, and not long after Cam was released from the box...well. Maybe it’s easier to show, not tell:
Oh, and almost as soon as the Jackets were done celebrating that...
Nice to see the Captain on the board after he helped set up Anderson’s game winner on Wednesday night.
Oh, and just in case you thought we were done...
After all the empty nets missed last season, how nice is it to see this one get buried?
Final Score: Jackets 5 - Senators 2
The win extends the Jackets’ streak to 6 straight - their longest win streak since the epic 16 win streak from last season. Oh, and not to mention this keeps the team atop the Metropolitan Division - that’s pretty good, right?
This game featured Atkinson and Foligno getting back to business, Nutivaara’s first goal of the season, big contributions from Seth Jones, Josh Anderson, and Lukas Sedlak, and a strong showing from Bob and the PK.
Unfortunately it also featured a weak performance by the power play, inconsistent efforts from Sonny Milano and a struggling Panarin. Even leaving aside his gaffe that lead to the Hoffman goal, the bread man just didn’t seem to be 100% tonight, and it showed.
Still, all these complaints are a lot easier to swallow on the heels of a win rather than a loss, and if the team can continue making this kind of progress, we’re in for quite a ride.
The team will be off tomorrow, traveling to Montreal on Sunday, and face the Canadiens at the Bell Center on Monday before coming back to face Carolina at home Tuesday.