Trying to cast aside the swirling off-ice UFA contract drama for both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets came into their showdown with the Golden Knights trying to sweep the season series, and their three-game road trip.
As Bobrovsky made his third-consecutive start for Columbus, old pal Marc-Andre Fleury got the nod in goal for Vegas. That showdown in particular has always been fun, going back to when both played in the same division and numerous playoff battles with Pittsburgh. Though Fleury has often had the upper-hand, it was Bobrovsky on this night, making 20 saves, and the Blue Jackets getting a pair of goals from Cam Atkinson, as they skated out of Vegas with the 4-3 victory.
Josh Anderson got the Blue Jackets’ scoring started early. With goals in his last two games, and four of the last five coming in, he now has 19 on the season. Gerard Gallant challenged for possible goaltender interference but the original goal call on the ice stood.
Only 32 seconds after the games’ first goal, the Knights tied the score, on a weird, fluky-looking play, at least from Bobrovsky’s perspective in the net. Nate Schmidt was credited with the goal, which went off of Pierre-Luc Dubois, just catching Bobrovsky at the wrong time. The goal for Schmidt ties his career-high set last year, while Jonathan Marchessault earned his 100th career assist on the play.
Since the start of the new year, Columbus’ power play came into play tied-for-fourth best in the league, 9-for-33 (27%), and goals in five of their last six games including their last two. Though the Jackets had an opportunity towards the end of the first period, Vegas, instead, was able to capitalize on the penalty kill with the short-handed goal for their first lead of the game.
Bobrovsky made the initial outstanding save on William Karlsson, but a bad bounce off the save resulted in the puck finding the trailing Jon Merrill, in position to clean up on the rebound from the slot to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead.
The first period track meet calmed down to a tighter defensive mindset in the second. Columbus was unable to solve Fleury for a majority of the middle stanza but generated zone time in their offensive end. With just under 4:30 remaining, Panarin was able to find the games’ equalizer, beating an open net left by Fleury, who left the net to play a dump-in off the board by Oliver Bjorkstrand. The puck bounced off in a weird way to Panarin, who saw his nothing-but-net opportunity, beating a sprawling Fleury.
For Panarin, it’s his first goal since Jan. 31 at Winnipeg, and eighth since Jan. 10. He has 16 points since that date. Vegas was limited to just three shots on goal in that second period.
Flow charts courtesy of Natural Stat Trick tell the tale of the tape through the two periods and how Columbus was feeding off play in the offensive end of the ice.
Both teams looking for that third period edge and the chance to regain the lead, Cody Eakin was the one able to capitalize with the slap shot on the rush. Just off a face-off to the right of Fleury, the Knights utilized their speed and quickness to push the puck up ice, showing first-period reminisces of the track meet style the Jackets wanted to stay away from.
Needing that tying goal, Atkinson was the man to deliver for Columbus, using speed of his own up the right side, and his body to maintain positioning and stuff the rebound from Fleury after the initial shot and save past the goaltender.
But actually, he wasn’t done.
Each team playing a rather disciplined brand of hockey on this night, the Jackets earned their second power play opportunity of the night, when Paul Stastny went off for slashing Panarin at 17:04. This set up the chance for Atkinson, who scored the go-ahead, and eventual game-winner, his second of the night, all while keeping the streaking power play going.
Columbus now has power play goals in six of their last seven games, and now three-consecutive games. For Atkinson, his 31st goal of the season increases his team-lead for goals, and it’s now the second time in his career he’s hit the 30-goal plateau, last doing so in 2016-17 when he scored 35.
Brandon Dubinsky missed the game as he returned to Columbus during the middle of the trip for an MRI on his hip. Erik Haula (knee) and Nick Holden (undisclosed) also missed the game for Vegas.
According to Brian Hedger, Anthony Duclair seemed to get caught up along the boards during the first period, possibly injuring his knee or leg but stayed in.
Duclair just hit along the boards in front of the #CBJ bench. Looked like he might've incurred some sort of right leg issue, ankle or knee.— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) February 10, 2019
He's current sitting on the bench.
After losing ice-time during the third period of their matchup against the Coyotes last time out, Panarin (one goal, two assists, 17:28), Dubois (one assist, 17:05), and Atkinson (two goals, tied for a game-high six shots, 19:58) got the job done Saturday night. Panarin’s three points adds to his team-lead with 63 on the season.
Columbus’ PK continues to scorch, having now killed off 38 of its last 39 penalties, as the Knights were held scoreless on the PP. For the first time this season, the Golden Knights have lost three-straight at home. The Blue Jackets outshot Vegas 33-23 controlled the face-offs, winning 52.5%. Along with Atkinson, Anderson also had six shots on goal. With tonight’s victory, the Jackets net their first victory at T-Mobile Arena, which means they have now won in every NHL building.
#CBJ has returned to Columbus after a 3-0 road trip. Did you know? With a win last night, the Jackets have extended a franchise record with 17 wins in the first 27 road games of a campaign, two more victories than in 2016-17.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) February 10, 2019
#CBJ is the fifth team to post at least three regular season wins against Vegas since they came into the league per Hockey Reference. The others are EDM, MIN, NSH and STL. Means they're first Eastern team to do it.— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) February 10, 2019
They return home to face the Washington Capitals at 7:00 Tuesday night.
Note: As an inside joke, I predicted Blue Jackets power play goals with the other Cannon writers since before the power play started working. Now when I predict power play goals, I expect it.