The Columbus Blue Jackets came in losing five straight and the Colorado Avalanche had lost seven of their past nine, including three straight on home ice. In the past three encounters to Pepsi Center, the Blue Jackets had taken three of the previous four meetings.
So something had to give.
A unit looking to reset and take a deep breath in the thin mountain air, Alexander Wennberg embodied those who most definitely needed to get off to a quick start. His primary assist set up Oliver Bjorkstrand with an early 1-0 lead less than a minute into the game, at 53 seconds to start.
The two teams traded goals through the first 40 minutes, a 3-3 game entering the final 20, before Wennberg and the Jackets skated away with the 6-3 win. Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves on the night.
A leaking shot nearly eluded Bobrovsky as the puck got behind him in the blue of the crease as Markus Nutivaara was there to skate it out.
At 11:59 Erik Johnson got the Avalanche on the board with a slap shot. Just under a minute later the Jackets tied the score, Pierre-Luc Dubois’ 20th of the year, matching his season total and career-high from a year ago.
Another look at the goal as Dubois went up and over to tap it in. Philipp Grubauer stayed down for a few seconds and was slow to get up but stayed in.
Colorado answered once more before the final horn to end the first period. Nikita Zadorov’s slap shot found its way through the defense and past Bobrovsky.
You wouldn’t have been surprised if you heard the Avalanche had a 3-2 lead and you would have assumed that the majority of the scoring would come from the trio of Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen or Nathan MacKinnon.
Instead, while the three combined for one assist on the night, it was a third defenseman of the night to score for Colorado, occurring in the second period as Samuel Girard took a drop pass from Gabriel Bourque and fired it home for his teams’ first lead of the night.
Things could have further disintegrated for the Jackets. Instead, a couple of All-Stars loomed large late in the second to keep Columbus in striking distance, before they ultimately struck.
Seth Jones’ individual effort at the defensive end kept the Avs’ lead at one, muscling the puck away and out from an empty net, before Cam Atkinson converted on a breakaway to tie the game at three-all inside the final minute of the second period. He leads the team with 29 goals.
Artemi Panarin’s scoop and Hail Mary pass to Atkinson for the breakaway goal.
Both teams trying to regain the lead in the third period, Josh Anderson picked up his 17th goal of the season for Columbus to give the Jackets a 4-3 lead. A play originating with a dump-in to the end boards took a Blue Jackets bounce, and Anderson was there to get enough on it for the trickle in.
Former Monsters coach, and current Avalanche bench boss Jared Bednar challenged the play for a potential offsides but the original goal call stood up, and the Avs were charged a penalty.
This set up Wennberg and the Jackets for the insurance goal on the power play, Wennberg scoring his second on the season to end a 34-game goalless drought.
Dubois scored the empty-net goal to seal the win. His 21st of the season is also a new career-high.
Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Murray both missed the game and are considered day-to-day with lower-body injuries. Dubinsky took part in warmups but left early. Boone Jenner returned to the lineup after missing the last three games. He won a game-high 13 face-offs (72.2%). He also added two assists, and was one of four Jackets players with multi-point performances including Dean Kukan who had his first multi-point game of his career.
13 Jackets collected points with four picking up multiple points (Dubois, Jenner, Kukan and Wennberg) to help the club improve to 6-1-1 in the past eight contests vs. the Avalanche. #CBJ pic.twitter.com/6jS842rC0k— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) February 6, 2019
Bobrovsky came in 6-2-1 versus Colorado and Grubauer came in 0-2-2 against the Blue Jackets. Bjorkstrand now has tallies in his last three games. The Avalanche went 0-for-4 on the power play, including two shots on the four chances. They entered action top five in the league on the power play (24.7%). Wennberg’s two points (one goal, one assist) on the evening gave him his first multi-point game since Nov. 15 against the Panthers when he had two assists. Columbus was 1-for-2 on the power play. The Blue Jackets’ penalty kill is nearly perfect in 2019, with just one goal past them in the last 32 chances.
The Avalanche trio of Landeskog, MacKinnon, Rantanen were a combined -8 with one point. Columbus now has power play goals in four of their last five games (4-for-12).