Heading into this afternoon’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Columbus Blue Jackets had little to no team chemistry and struggled to put points on the board. In the midst of the Jackets’ rough start to the 2020-21 season, the Jackets were dealing with a bit of off-ice drama when their number one center, Pierre-Luc Dubois, requested a trade.
Mere hours before puck drop, Dubois was granted his wish and was shipped to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Patrick Laine and hometown boy Jack Roslovic. With the cloud lifted and excitement in the air, the Jackets looked like a brand new team. They played with spunk, grit, and happiness. It seemed as though a giant weight had been lifted off of their shoulders.
Victor Hedman and the Lightning may have gotten on the board first but it was the Jackets who had the last laugh out scoring the Lightning 3-2 in the first. Yes, the team struggling to score goals lit the lamp three times in one period on the day they traded their number one center. Poetic.
The first goal came courtesy of captain Nick Foligno 21 seconds after Hedman’s goal. The play started with Cam Atkinson barreling down the ice like a cannonball while being double teamed. As Atkinson neared the crease, Jan Rutta yanked the puck away and turned to make a getaway. BUT WAIT! Foligno effortlessly swooped in, grabbed the puck, and immediately lofted it into the back of the net.
At around the halfway mark of the first period, Mikhail Grigorenko made everyone foget about the amount of hustle Foligno put into the first goal. The puck snuck through Andrei Vasilevskiy’s five-hole and sat there begging to be tapped into the net. Seeing the massive space between Vasilevskiy at the top of the crease and the net, Grigorenko zipped through the crease knocking the puck into the net in the process. It is such a risky and ballsy move to skate behind a goaltender and try to score. If you hit the netminder before it goes in, a penalty could be given and the goal would have been taken away. Luckily, Grigorenko had the skill and precision to get in and out without causing a ruckus.
With 59 seconds left in the first, Vladislav Gavrikov called Roosters and ordered a round of chili for the Columbus fans when he scored the Jackets’ third goal of the night. A quick setup from Liam Foudy put Gavrikov in the right position to score.
Unfortunately, the Lightning felt the need to try and make things interesting by cutting the Jackets lead to 3-2. Elvis Merzlikins slid to the left to prevent Brayden point from scoring. While taking away Point’s shot, Merzlikins left the entire right side of the net open for an unattended Ondrej Palat to loft the puck into the net.
The second period was a bit rough in the beginning for the Jackets. Especially for Alexandre Texier whose shots went wide, passes were off a hair, and broke a stick while trying to shoot from the point. Other than Texier’s not so great start to the second and a few dicey power plays, the Jackets didn’t look so bad. They were able to handle everything the Lightning threw their way and they did it with a smile on their faces. The Jackets were truly living their best life today.
Multiple aggressive battles along the boards took place during the first four minutes of the third period. The energy along the boards spread to other areas of the ice and amongst players. This energy and hustle led to the Jackets fourth goal of the night 6:34 into the third. Both Texier and Oliver Bjorkstrand hustled down the ice and muscled around Lightning defenders in an attempt to fire off a goal. Then, out of nowhere, Zach Werenski flew into the play like a bat out of h-e-double hockey sticks and launched the puck into the back of the net.
After Werenski’s goal, the Lightning began to kick it up a notch. They tend to get extra physical when they are down in the third period. Per tradition, Yanni Gourde started to camp out in front of the crease and antagonize Merzlikins with his presence. A lot has changed since this summer but leaving Gourde unattended near the crease was not one of them.
With two minutes left in the game, the Lightning pulled Vasilevskiy for the extra attacker. It took Eric Robinson under 30 seconds to make them regret that move. From the boards near the benches, Robinson bounced the puck into the empty net to put the final nail in the Lightning’s coffin.
In the end, 14 Jackets notched a point in today’s 5-2 win over the Lightning.
Teamwork really does make the dream work.