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Recap: Burning the Midnight Oilers

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I watched the game so you didn’t have to

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday night in Edmonton, things did not start out the way the Blue Jackets hoped. The Jackets controlled the pace of play, but each mistake made proved to be costly:

  • Sergei Bobrovsky left the crease to play the puck behind his net and pass to Ryan Murray. Instead, the pass was picked off by Connor McDavid and passed to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to shoot at a wide open net. That’s McDavid’s league-leading 100th point of the season. Bob really needs to stop leaving the crease, because he’s just not very good at playing the puck away from the net.
  • Zach Werenski attempted to hip check McDavid into the boards, and it resulted in linesman Steve Barton taking a hard fall and getting carried off the ice on a stretcher (we later got word that he checked out fine at the hospital). Side note: hockey officials are incredible athletes and it’s amazing they don’t get seriously injured more often. They do a phenomenal job of staying out of the play most of the time.
  • On a power play, a Werenski entry pass was just a bit in front of Sonny Milano, and got tipped by Matt Benning into the neutral zone. Sonny battled McDavid for it and it did not go well. McDavid passed to Nugent-Hopkins to start a 2-on-1 and he passed back to McDavid for the shorthanded goal.
  • The third Edmonton goal was a power play goal by Drake Caggiula (again assisted by McDavid; damn, that guy is good). This wasn’t bad, but the tripping penalty by Milano that caused the power play was.

This was just 10 minutes into the game, and at this point I’m sure many CBJ fans were ready to turn off the game and go to bed early. Others may have been tempted to damage their TV sets.

Frinkiac

Given this early 3-0 hole, given that the team was missing their captain to injury, and given that it was the first of a long three game road trip, you could hardly blame the Blue Jackets for packing it in for the remaining 50 minutes and calling it a night.

They did anything but.

After a Boone Jenner faceoff win, Ryan Murray passed to Thomas Vanek, who skated in closer and fired a tight angle shot at the goal. It bounced around a few bodies like a pinball and went in to put the Jackets on the board.

Just under a minute later, the Jackets were back in the offensive zone. Artemi Panarin (donning the “A” tonight along with Jenner and Seth Jones) and Pierre-Luc Dubois each won puck battles behind the net. Werenski got the puck up high and fired his wrist shot at the goal. Cam Atkinson was shielding the net and the puck deflected towards Panarin. Bread buried it to bring the game within one goal.

With just under five minutes remaining in the first, it was Vanek’s time again. Alexander Wennberg won the puck behind the net, and passed to David Savard at the point. Savvy’s initial shot was blocked, but he recovered and fired again. Vanek was in front to deflect the puck in. Tied game.

First Period Stats (5v5):
65.79% CF (25-13)
60.71% FF (17-11)
Shots 12-9
Scoring Chances 15-15
High Danger Shot Attempts 6-1
xGF (all situations) 3.28-1.21

It was a mostly dominant period for Columbus outside of a few fluke plays in the first half of the period.

Natural Stat Trick

Could this momentum carry into the second? Apparently it could! Early in the period, Vanek and Jenner played a great physical game around the net, getting multiple shots each in quick succession. Jenner hit a rebound in the air with his stick for the goal.

Five minutes later, the Jackets were on a power play. Both units played very well this time. Vanek had several shot attempts (his teammates clearly wanted him to get #3) and one hit the post. Then the first unit came on and got several attempts of their own, including a whiff by Atkinson. Right as the penalty expired, Cam found himself in the slot with the puck. He waited for what seemed like an eternity than snapped it past Cam Talbot. That was the end of the night for the Oilers’ starter, to be replaced by Laurent Brossoit.

That Vanek hat trick his teammates wanted? That came in the final five minutes of the period. Boone fought for the puck behind the net, then skated up along the wall. He passed over to Vanek in the slot, who sent it home for his third goal and fourth point of the night.

The Blue Jackets had no hat tricks through the first 70 games of the season. Now they have had 3 hat tricks in the last 7 games, including 3 in the last 4 road games.

Second period 5v5 stats:
CF 17-11
FF 13-6
Shots on goal 7-4
Scoring chances 10-6
High danger shot attempts 3-1
xGF (2 periods, all situations) 4.43-1.48

It was a sleepier third period, but the Blue Jackets had one more goal in them. Panarin got the puck in the defensive zone and carried it out himself all the way into the offensive zone. Once there, he skated around a series of Edmonton skaters as though they were his dog:

Seriously, it was pretty much just like that:

His cross-ice pass found Markus Nutivaara for Columbus’ 7th unanswered goal.

SEVEN. UNANSWERED. GOALS. Bob wasn’t at his sharpest early on, but his teammates more than bailed him out. They got revenge for that 7-2 loss in NWA back in December, eh? (Note: Mark Letestu was on the winning side of both) Several players stepped up big time:

  • Thomas Vanek with the hat trick and an assist.
  • Jenner, Panarin, Dubois, and Wennberg all with multi-point nights.
  • Alexander Wennberg was +6 on the night. I usually criticize +/- as a season-long stat, but holy crap, being on ice for 6 goals in one game is fantastic.

Final 5v5 stats:
CF 50-37
FF 34-28
Shots 22-20
Scoring chances 28-16
High Danger Shots 11-3
xGF (all situations) 5.03-1.99

The swagger and confidence this team gained and showed throughout the 10 game win streak was on display again tonight. With the win they keep pace with their division, staying one point behind Pittsburgh (who lost in regulation to Detroit) and one point ahead of Philadelphia (who lost in overtime to Dallas).

These red-hot Jackets have won 14 of their last 18 and return to action on Thursday in Calgary. See you then.