After a frustrating loss in Buffalo on Saturday night, the Blue Jackets whiffed on an opportunity to overtake Pittsburgh both in the Metropolitan Division and the overall NHL standings, mostly due to their own lack of discipline.
Tonight, against the Flyers, the Jackets needed to keep their heads, play with discipline, and ideally get out to an early lead.
Well, they managed one of those.
Sam Gagner continued his recent hot streak, helping to keep play alive in the offensive zone with an excellent possession shift midway through the first period, then stepping into a rebound off Steve Mason that had come into the open ice, hammering it into the top corner to open the scoring.
Just under a minute later, Zach Werenski would spring Cam Atkinson on a breakaway. Cam would out wait Steve Mason, it would be 2-0 Columbus, and the night seemed to be off to a great start.
That impression began to fade when Travis Konecny made his way into the Jackets’ zone with depressingly little resistance, undressing Boone Jenner en route to the net before firing the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky to put the Flyers back on the board before the end of the first period.
This wasn’t the worst place to be as the second period opened, but unfortunately the Jackets would quickly find a fascinating collection of ways to become their own worst enemy.
Josh Anderson would be taken out of the equation by matching roughing penalties with Radko Gudas, followed a few minutes later by Jack Johnson being whistled for interference, and Brayden Schenn would tie things up on the ensuing power play.
Then the pain began.
Almost as soon as Johnson had left the box, William Karlsson quickly replaced him, and with just over thirty seconds left in his penalty Seth Jones would be called for a double minor, putting the Jackets, at a brief two man disadvantage, but more importantly on an extended penalty kill, wearing down the shortened bench.
Just as the Jones penalty expired, Konecny would score for the second time in the game, giving the Flyers a 3-2 lead, and it looked like things would be going from bad to worse when Scott Hartnell was called for another penalty on the following shift, but the PK stiffened up, stemming the bleeding and giving the Blue Jackets a chance to start digging out.
That would come in the form of Zach Werenski finding a lane and bombing a shot from downtown to tie things back up at three all, but the bad blood would boil over again before the end of the period in just shy of an all out brawl that would eventually see Josh Anderson called for two roughing penalties, Travis Konecny called for his part in the donnybrook, and, Sam Gagner serving the extra minor.
The PK would successfully kill the remaining time in the second frame, and get the boys out of trouble to start the third period, until miracles and wonders above, the Flyers would finally be whistled for a penalty of their own after Konecny delivered a nasty elbow to the head of Oliver Bjorkstrand.
The power play started a bit rough, but got some good puck movement going and opening a shooting lane for Brandon Dubinsky, who scored his 10th of the year to put the Jackets up 4-3.
Despite being whistled for another late penalty on Boone Jennner, the Jackets held the lead as time ticked down, and finally Cam Atkinson would shut the door by filling the empty net for his 32nd of the season, sealing a much needed win in spite of their struggles.
The win was a record setting affair on several levels:
The Blue Jackets now have 44 wins for the first time in franchise history.
They’ve broken the 93 point barrier for best regular season record in franchise history.
Sergei Bobrovsky now has both personal career high in wins with 37 and takes over for the most wins in a season by a Blue Jackets netminder.
Zach Werenski now owns the most goals in a season by a rookie CBJ defenseman, and there’s a good chance he’ll top James Wisniewski’s franchise record for the best single season points for a blueliner.
Cam continues to be On FIYAH this season, and Dubi’s goal marks 11 different CBJ players with 10 or more goals this year - again, a franchise record.
It’s certainly not perfect - the lack of discipline and an atrocious second period nearly sunk the Jackets tonight, and the inconsistent efforts could see them get seriously burned in the postseason - but it was a big win on many levels.
Time for the Jackets to fly home, and prepare to face Florida on Thursday.
14 more games to go.
Plenty of room to keep climbing.