The biggest game in Nationwide Arena in years loomed large last night. The Columbus Blue Jackets entered last night’s game two points behind the Montreal Canadiens in the standings. A win would mean, on the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker, the boys in union blue would leapfrog the Canadiens with just five games to play in the season. To say the game was huge was an understatement.
After an injury scare late in Tuesday’s win over the New York Islanders, Zach Werenski skated and was cleared to play.
Werenski says the decision to not return to Tuesday’s game vs NYI was more precautionary. Feels good to go. #CBJ— Alison (@AlisonL) March 28, 2019
Torts made no other lineup changes, with Sergei Bobrovsky getting the start in net opposite Carey Price for the Canadiens.
Here’s what happened in the Super Bowl at Nationwide Arena last night.
Montreal opened the game with the puck in the Columbus end, and 1:15 into the game, they were rewarded. Brett Kulak registered his sixth of the season to open the scoring and put the Blue Jackets on their heels.
Montreal goal (0-1): Kulak from Domi and Shaw, 1:15
Montreal just owned the opening five minutes - Columbus could not find any zone time against the Canadiens, got beat to pucks in the defensive zone, and did not register a single shot on goal until the 10:30 mark of the opening period, at which point Montreal had seven.
There are no words to describe how badly Montreal kicked Columbus’ ass in the first ten minutes. Montreal’s fourth line dominated zone time and forced Sergei Bobrovsky to make several outstanding saves to keep the deficit at one. Utterly disgraceful effort to open a must win game on home ice, and sucked the crowd totally out of the game. Columbus could not even establish zone presence in the first ten minutes.
A sarcastic cheer went up from the crowd when Cam Atkinson registered the first shot with 10:20 gone in the first.
Brandon Dubinsky had a nice chance with 7:45 remaining in the first, but could not steer the puck past Price on a feed from Nick Foligno.
Nick Foligno registered the best attempts for the team in the first period with just 3:45 remaining as he had two shots on the doorstep, but Carey Price was equal to the challenge and kept the Jackets off the board.
The Jackets earned a power play late as Shea Weber sat for holding Seth Jones, but Joel Armia single handedly killed the penalty and prevented Columbus from equalizing. Columbus did not register a shot on goal as the period ended with Montreal leading 1-0.
#CBJ trail 1-0 after one. Nervy start to this one for the home team as Haps dictated pace and play.— Alison (@AlisonL) March 28, 2019
Jackets at 5v5 with:
41.38% of shot attempts
35.71% of scoring chances
50% (3) of high-danger attempts
Shot / heat maps: pic.twitter.com/f72cPMLjp3
David Savard equalized on a deflection off of Carey Price to give the Jackets life and get to crowd back into the game with just minutes gone into the second period. Markus Nutivaara won a battle and Brandon Dubinsky found Savard for the one timer to get the Jackets back in the game.
Columbus goal (1-1): Savard from Dubinsky and Foligno, 1:42
The Canadiens went back to the fore foot after the goal, forcing several big saves by Bobrovsky as Armia and Weber were denied with the net gaping. End to end action to open the second, but the teams remained knotted at one.
On a three on two, Alex Wennberg elected to try to feed the puck across two Canadiens rather than take the shot with 14:30 remaining in the period. Seth Jones went to the box for holding with 12:26 remaining, giving Montreal their first power play of the night.
With 11:37 remaining, Andrew Shaw demolished Adam McQuaid in the middle of the ice. Play was whistled down and, on replay, Shaw caught McQuaid high with an elbow. Shaw sat for interference, nullifying the power play. Torts was mad, thinking it should have been a major.
Immediately after the faceoff, Montreal scored to retake the lead. Jeff Petry threw a soft backhander at Bobrovsky and it ricocheted past him for his twelfth of the season.
Montreal goal (1-2): Petry from Danault and Kulak, 8:36
Columbus did not score on the 40 second power play that ensued. So, on that sequence, they lost McQuaid and Montreal scored a junk goal that Sergei Bobrovsky should have had - no excuse to allow that from the angle Petry scored from.
After Montreal scored and put the Jackets back on their heels again, Oliver Bjorkstrand won a puck battle and kept the puck alive to Alex Wennberg, who found Seth Jones. Jones let a shot fly and Bjorkstrand deflected the puck five hole on Price to equalize the score again.
Columbus goal (2-2): Bjorkstrand from Jones and Wennberg, 11:50
Bjorkstrand extended his goal scoring streak to three games, four in five games. With 6:03 remaining, Zach Werenski forced a great glove save by Carey Price.
With 5:36 remaining, the Bread Man delivered. Artemi Panarin gave the Jackets chili and their first lead of the night as Matt Duchene found Panarin with a backhand to the backside and Panarin one timed it home.
Columbus goal (3-2): Panarin from Duchene and Nutivaara, 14:24
A physical shift from the fourth line brought the crowd to its feet with Nick Foligno and Riley Nash leveling huge hits on Montreal.
On a three on two, Carey Price was forced to turn Ryan Dzingel aside after a power move from Josh Anderson to carry the puck into the zone with a Canadien draped all over him.
After forty minutes, Columbus led 3-2 and led on the shot counter 18-17.
One heck of a response by #CBJ in the second. They now lead 3-2 with some dynamic play.— Alison (@AlisonL) March 29, 2019
In the middle period at 5v5, Jackets with:
56.25% of shot attempts
46.67% of scoring chances
0% of high-danger attempts
Shot map: pic.twitter.com/xDS2OHd46T
Wennberg found Bjorkstrand and shot the puck off Price early. Bjorkstrand is hot of late and a threat to score with every shot. The Jackets opened the third on the front foot, a good sign to mitigate the push that Montreal was looking for.
On a breakaway after a Canadiens turnover, Riley Nash forced a Price save but he found the loose puck and buried it behind Price.
Columbus goal (4-2): Nash, unassisted, 2:59
After the Nash goal, Columbus poured it on. Nash nearly scored another as Brandon Dubinsky found him in front of Price. Max Domi tried to square up to Seth Jones post whistle, but nothing came of the disagreement.
On the ensuing faceoff, Oliver Bjorkstrand made it five. Montreal was caught flat-footed and Bjorkstrand beat Price on a feed from Dean Kukan.
Columbus goal (5-2): Bjorkstrand from Kukan, 4:22
Kooks to Bjorky to the back of the net! pic.twitter.com/MPQAIOiqjm— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 29, 2019
Are you kidding me? The Jackets dragged themselves off of the mat and absolutely hammered the Canadiens over the last 25 minutes. Four straight goals from a confident hockey team playing their game. What a time to be alive.
As Montreal looked to get back in the game, Pierre-Luc Dubois took a penalty with 12:43 remaining. Columbus killed the penalty with minimal chances by the Canadiens.
Despite several chances after the power play, Montreal was kept off the scoreboard by Bob and a stout defense that was still missing Adam McQuaid, doubtful to return after the big hit in the second period.
Montreal pulled price with five minutes to go, attempting to get back in the game. Columbus was unable to score with 4:00 remaining, but Bobrovsky kept the Canadiens off the scoreboard. At the final TV timeout, Columbus held on to a three goal lead.
Brandon Dubinsky scored an empty netter with just minutes remaining to put this one on ice.
Columbus goal (6-2): Dubinsky, unassisted, 16:49
The Jackets saw this one out, and jumped back into the playoff picture.
Montreal Canadiens 2 Columbus Blue Jackets 6
The next time Cam Atkinson is in position for a one timer on the power play will be the first this season.
Five goals in five games for Oliver Bjorkstrand. He’s got 16 in his last 41 games.
Three goals in his last seven games for David Savard.
Good to see Brandon Dubinsky get a goal. The fourth line was a huge stabilizing force in the first period when Montreal threatened to run away with this one.
For the first ten minutes, Montreal owned the game. It was questionable if the Jackets would even show up to play. Riley Nash acknowledged as much in the postgame interview. But, over the final fifty minutes of the game, Columbus did what they had to do to get the two points. Columbus was able to kill penalties, limit chances, reduce turnovers, and keep the Canadiens from establishing their game en route to an emphatic victory on home ice. With just five games to go, Columbus now controls its own playoff destiny.
Third: Riley Nash
Second: David Savard
First: Oliver Bjorkstrand
Columbus, when they had to have it, caved Montreal in. After a slow start, the Jackets beat Montreal down over the last forty minutes and deserved the victory in this game as Montreal seemed willing to throw hands and try to start scrums since they could not beat Bobrovsky during the course of play.
Carolina is now within Columbus’ sights.
Let’s do that hockey.