The Columbus Blue Jackets came into Thursday with an improbable 11 game point streak on the line against a hosting Boston Bruins team with the second best record in the league and one of the most lethal top lines. Alexandre Texier had joined the ranks of the injured, but Sonny Milano finally returned after missing over two weeks with a concussion. Scott Harrington replaced Gabriel Carlsson for some reason.
Let’s get to it:
The game appeared to start on a high note, with Gus Nyquist scoring just 17 seconds in off of a great hustle play:
Unfortunately, it was challenged for goaltender interference and overturned. Boone Jenner was in the crease and had his stick holding the back of Tuukka Rask’s legs:
After that, it was a fairly even, back-and-forth period. Shots and shot attempts were close, but the Jackets had better quality with a 4-0 lead in high danger shot attempts. All for naught (of course), and it was scoreless at the intermission.
Past the halfway point of the game, Dean Kukan took a tripping penalty against Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins wasted no time making the Jackets pay. Just 5 seconds, in fact. Patrice Bergeron won the faceoff, Torey Krug passed across to David Pastrnak, and he released a booming shot from long distance through traffic. I’m not sure Elvis Merzlikins even saw it.
I’m not even mad; that’s just a great play. That gives Pastrnak 30 goals already in just half a season. That’s ridiculous. I think this play also shows what happens when you have a unit of skilled players that have played together for so many years. We saw some goals like this from the Jackets’ PP back in 2016 but not many like that since then.
An important storyline to this game is Boston’s domination on the faceoff dot. This goal was the time it mattered the most, but for most of the game the Jackets had to battle for possession because Boston started each shift with the puck. Through two periods, Boone Jenner was 8/13 while Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alexander Wennberg, and Riley Nash were a combined 0/14. Uffda.
As the game went on, Torts united Sonny Milano and Nathan Gerbe together on a line with Wennberg, as Milano and Gerbe were two of the best Jackets on the ice all night. Just over two minutes into the third, that line came up with a huge, game-tying goal. Milano threw his body around on the forecheck to maintain possession. Vladislav Gavrikov kept the puck in the zone and sent it back down. Milano took it below the goal line (with Wennberg helping clear the way), then he fired it in the area around the crease. Gerbe tied himself up with Matt Grzelcyk in front of the goal, and the puck deflected off the latter’s skate into the net.
Over the last 10 games (including this one), the Blue Jackets have outscored their opponents 13-3 in the third period. CLUTCH.
For the rest of regulation, the Blue Jackets aggressively checked but kept the puck in front of them, limiting the high quality chances for Boston. When he had to, Elvis made some huge saves.
With the 1-1 tie through 60 minutes, the point streak was extended to 12 games. Could the Jackets find a way to win the additional point?
The faceoff woes continued, this time with Boone Jenner losing the opening draw before skating off for Dubois. Dubois, Nyquist, and Seth Jones played effective defense during the opening possession. Nyquist through a check behind the net and Jones ended up with the puck deep in the defensive zone. With speed, he skated out of the zone and kept gaining steam towards the Boston net. He waited just long enough to make the defense thinking he was shooting, then fired behind Charlie McAvoy to a trailing Dubois, who one-timed the pass into the net.
I feel like there are too many players who contributed for me to hand out 3 stars. Here’s who stood out:
Dubois and Jones: What a gorgeous goal in OT.
Merzlikins: 25 saves on 26 shots faced. Florida and Boston are two of the best offenses in the league and he has held them to one goal apiece this week. This has to be a huge confidence boost and hopefully he keeps building on this in the next four games, against the three worst teams in the West.
Milano: It was good to see him back on the ice, and he would have earned my praise even without the goal. He picked up right where he left off before his injury, in terms of improved all-around play.
Gerbe: Even in a league that has opened up more to small forwards, Gerbe stands out as undersized. That didn’t hold him back tonight. He buzzed around the ice and threw what little weight he had around.
Cleveland Monsters: Gerbe wasn’t the only recent call-up to have a good game. Jakob Lilja, Ryan MacInnis, Kevin Stenlund, and Gerbe all showed great hustle in every shift. One thing that stood out about Lilja was his hockey sense to cover for a guy like Zach Werenski when he played forward on offense. This team isn’t giving up many odd man rushes with awareness like that. Each of these players knows he has a great opportunity to make an impression while so many regulars are out with injury. If they keep this up, there will be difficult decisions to make as the injured players return.
Before they depart on a four game West Coast trip, they host the San Jose Sharks at home on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. See you then!