The Carolina Hurricanes attempted 73 shots on Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, but the CBJ blocked, saved and redirected enough of them to set up a game-winning Nick Foligno goal with 1:41 left in regulation for the 3-2 victory.
That’s three wins in a row for Columbus. That’s a 6-1-1 record over the last eight at home. That’s four straight wins against Carolina, three this season. That’s 200 wins for John Tortorella as CBJ head coach.
The Blue Jackets survived getting outshot every period—34 to 18 overall—thanks to another strong performance from Elvis Merzlikins and 26 blocked shots.
Nick Foligno blocked three shots, but his biggest moment came in the closing minutes of the game. Foligno flew into the zone on a line change and intercepted a wayward puck from a Carolina turnover (caused by Eric Robinson and Riley Nash). The captain then picked his spot and let loose, scoring his fifth of the season and capping a wild one at Nationwide.
Cam Atkinson starred in his return from injury. Atkinson picked up a goal and an assist to earn the game’s first star. Emil Bemstrom scored as well and Seth Jones registered a game-high five blocked shots.
Elvis made 30 saves on 32 shots, while Petr Mrazek stopped 15 of 18.
- By most metrics, Columbus should not have won. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, Carolina tallied 33 scoring chances to Columbus’s 14 (seven of them high danger, to two). The Hurricanes’ 2.37 xGF eclipsed the Blue Jackets’ 1.24. Look at this 5v5 gameflow:
But that doesn’t matter! Columbus scored two goals in the third period and kept its head above water in the second. Every time Carolina answered, the CBJ answered back. If you want to pile up wins, they’re probably not all gonna be pretty.
- Elvis is the truth. He made five high dangers saves (on six HD shots) and looked strong all night. Even seeing his shutout streak didn’t seem to rattle him all that much.
- Torts changed his lines to start the third. It worked well enough, with two goals in the final period. We can (and do) criticize a lot on this site, but he’s got them playing winning hockey at the moment.
- Very happy to see Zach Werenski return from an apparent leg injury in the first. Losing him would’ve been one of the last things this team needs right now.
- Philadelphia lost to Montreal, 4-1, giving the Blue Jackets the edge over the Flyers in the wild card.
- Back at home on Saturday night against New Jersey.
Columbus flew out of the gate, scoring 67 seconds into the game. Cam Atkinson, back in action for the first time since December 19, backhanded a saucer pass through the neutral zone to a zooming Emil Bemstrom. The world’s dirtiest player* saw Mrazek leaning and lasered one stick-side for a 1-0 lead.
*two lifetime NHL penalty minutes
1-0 Blue Jackets, Bemstrom (5), from Atkinson (13) and Gavrikov (6)
Atkinson almost got one in himself, trying to bank a puck in off the back of Mrazek. The Canes netminder had to snow angel and get some help from Joel Edmundson to avoid going down 2-0.
Columbus kept the pressure up and drew a Warren Foegele holding penalty at 3:54. Nothing doing on the power play (no shots), but a fast start to a big game.
Momentum turned midway through the period as Carolina found their footing. The CBJ looked in trouble when Zach Werenski blocked a Jordan Staal shot high on his left shin, forcing him to leave the game for a few minutes.
Werenski would return—phew—to help kill a Scott Harrington penalty at 11:46 of the first. The Hurricanes managed two shots thorugh a solid Columbus kill with plenty of good action in front of Merzlikins.
The Hurricanes kept their foot on the gas for the rest of the period as the CBJ thrashed in their own end to avoid a goal. Avoid they did, though, and Carolina took a too-many-men call with 48.8 seconds left (though they put 1.2 seconds back on the clock, hmm) left in the period. No goal for Columbus before intermission, keeping it 1-0 at the break. Carolina held a 7-4 shot advantage.
The second period wasn’t pretty for either team…but for different reasons.
Columbus did not manage to score—or even shoot—on the rest of their power play as the Hurricanes continued to press offensively. The dam finally broke at 8:38 with some bad Columbus luck. Seth Jones’s stick broke on a shot attempt, allowing Martin Necas to head the other way for a clear breakaway. He took care of business to end Elvis’s shutout streak at 166:29 and tie the game at 1-1.
1-1, Necas (11) from Wallmark (12) at 8:38
Elvis redeemed himself a few minutes later. Sebastian Aho took advantage of a CBJ turnover and tried to bang one in, but Elvis kicked out his leg to deny the Hurricanes.
Nick Foligno gave the home side its best chance of the period down the stretch, throwing a shot that Mrazek blockered right to Vladislav Gavrikov. Gavrikov couldn’t get his stick on it, however, so no goal there.
Disaster struck for Carolina in the closing seconds of the frame. Kevin Stenlund and Dougie Hamilton got tangled up going in opposite directions, sending Hamilton falling backward as his left leg buckled underneath him. He left the game and did not return. Awful for young star in the midst of a career season.
The period mercifully ended soon after tied at 1-1. Carolina outshot Columbus 15-7 in the second and took a 24-11 shot edge into the final frame—with a 55-20 advantage in shot attempts, too.
The Blue Jackets appeared to have washed the sour taste of the second out of their mouths early in the third. Cam Atkinson, no longer content with an assist, found the back of the net at 4:51 thanks to some nifty work from new linemate Alexander Wennberg and Markus Nutivaara. Heck of a return for No. 13.
2-1 Blue Jackets, Atkinson (10) from Wennberg (14) and Nutivaara (1) at 4:51
Carolina would not go quietly, though. Less than three minutes later, Jordan Staal deflected a Teuvo Teravainen point shot to even the score again. Teravainen simply threw it at the net and Staal made it happen.
2-2, Staal (7) from Teravainen (35) and Gardiner (10)
Werenski appeared to put Columbus back in front with a wrister past Mrazek, but Carolina successfully challenged (oh-so-close, Nick Foligno) offside to wipe the goal off the board.
The game opened up as overtime looked imminent—Gustav Nyquist missed a golden chance by shooting high on a 2-on-1—until Foligno notched his improbable beauty. Cue the streamers.