Saturday night’s affair brought with it old Central Division rivals amidst two teams who have been streaking of late. As the Columbus Blue Jackets saw its four-game win streak end Thursday against the Islanders, the Chicago Blackhawks rebounded from a Tuesday loss at Boston to beat the Devils Thursday, their eighth win in the last nine games.
Looking to find at least some sort of a balance in between Tuesday’s masterful performance against Washington and Thursday’s dud against New York, the Jackets were off to a smothering start in the Blackhawks’ end early, firing the games’ first four shots at Cam Ward. A rampant pace being set from the opening face-off, and a bit of fire wagon hockey unfolding from both ends as the game played out, Columbus would be the ones to emerge victorious.
Artemi Panarin had three points, including two goals and his 300th career point, and Sergei Bobrovsky made his sixth-straight start, making 40 saves in one of his very best performances of the year, as the Blue Jackets won for the fifth time in their last six games, 5-2.
As the title suggests, Sergei was on from the start of this one, flashing the leather early at his own end, and tested plenty on the night.
Pierre-Luc Dubois broke the first period scoreless tie to give Columbus the 1-0 lead, with a seeing-eye-shot over the left shoulder of Ward, who basically had no time to react.
Looking for the equalizer, Bobrovsky again loomed large, stifling Jonathan Toews from up close and at the goaltender’s doorstep with just over six minutes remaining in the first.
Columbus came into the game killing off 39 of its last 40 penalties, but leave it to Patrick Kane, now on a 17-game point streak, and points in 24 of his last 25 games, to break the Blue Jackets’ streak on the kill. The play unfolded with four players touching the puck on the preceding scoring sequence and quick passes, including Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat picking up the assists, with the last to touch the puck being the red-hot Kane.
Now officially off to a flying start, the Blue Jackets were set to counter, retaking the lead just 17 seconds after Kane’s power play goal for Chicago. Artemi Panarin, scoring his first of two goals in the game — also the first goals of his career against Chicago — fired from the slot to beat Ward and give the Jackets a 2-1 lead.
With under a minute remaining, Cam Atkinson and Panarin, a lethal duo that is not to be left unnoticed, sure gave notice to the United Center crowd with a 2-on-1 which resulted in Panarin’s one-time pass to, and shot from Atkinson, to extend the Jackets’ lead to 3-1 on the down-and-out Ward.
Bobrovsky was definitely on his game throughout the night, tracking pucks and making saves, including this Brent Seabrook shot, that just got a piece of Zach Werenski in front, changing directions, as Sergei got the glove on it in the second period.
Riley Nash, goal-starved throughout the season, nearly had his second goal of the season. Set up ahead of the defense, the puck found his stick but Ward had just enough on it to...[ahem] ward the puck away.
The Blackhawks closed the gap to one inside the final minute of the second period when captain resurgence, Jonathan Toews, earned his 27th of the season, with Kane picking up another point on the assist. It was quite the display from Kane getting the puck to Toews, as the captain had worked his way to the slot, drove the puck and put it past Bobrovsky on the wraparound shot.
After being outshot 20-9 in the second period by Chicago, and with Bobrovsky standing on his head to keep his team ahead, the offense returned the favor 12 seconds into the third off a face-off win by Atkinson to Ward’s left. The quick sequence of Atkinson to Ryan Murray to Panarin, with Artemi netting his second of the night, his 300th career point, a howitzer from the blue line to put the Jackets lead back two goals.
Atkinson also attempted to get into the act with a two-goal night but the goal was overturned due to being offsides.
Josh Anderson scored his career-best 20th goal with a puck trickling its way through a leaky Ward. Anderson took advantage of the Blackhawks making a line change and was able to take possession and burst through untested with only Ward as the last man for defense. He also tied his career-high in points with 30.
Columbus, which slipped out of third place in the division while the game was playing out, recouped their standing among the Metro’s top three with the win.
Brandon Dubinsky [hip] missed his fifth-straight game after being placed on IR Friday retroactive to Feb. 2. New Albany native Kole Sherwood was recalled from Cleveland for the second time this season, and made his NHL debut for Columbus on the fourth line with Riley Nash and Lukas Sedlak. Sherwood is the first Columbus native to start for the Blue Jackets. Said Tortorella pre-game, “Listen, I’m not going to try to be rude about anything. I don’t give a damn. We need to win a game. I don’t care if he’s from Mars. If he can play and add something to help us win, great.” Sherwood, along with Connor Murphy of the Blackhawks from Dublin, Ohio, both played for the AAA Blue Jackets. Sherwood had four hits and played 6:58. Boone Jenner [undisclosed], said to be “nicked up,” and Markus Hannikainen [illness] did not travel to Chicago with the team. Ryan Murray earned his 100th career point with three assists on the evening — three assists/points a single-game high — and Dubois was the third Blue Jackets player with multi-points (one goal, one assist). Columbus came in 1-8-1 in their last 10 games at Chicago.
We’ll be back at it on Presidents’ Day, this Monday night against the Lightning, a rare nationally televised game for the Blue Jackets from Nationwide Arena, starting at 7:30 pm.