The Columbus Blue Jackets took the ice tonight with eight regulars on the injured list. With a makeshift lineup could they overcome the surprisingly competitive Montreal Canadiens?
It was slow going early, as the Jackets looked to slow down the pace of the game. Montreal controlled possession but didn’t produce as much quality. The Jackets had at least three breakaways but couldn’t turn any into a goal. But they scored twice anyway!
First, Cole Sillinger earned his second goal of the season. It was his third straight game with a point.
they call it the silly sizzle pic.twitter.com/Bhx8fV3ST6— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) November 18, 2022
The lead was doubled thanks to a nifty high-low cross-ice pass from Gavin Bayreuther to Gus Nyquist:
good goal, great gus pic.twitter.com/0YqmXLq5tR— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) November 18, 2022
Could they hold the lead?
LOL of course not.
After another unsuccessful power play midway through the period, the Habs started to gain momentum. They got on the board thanks to another horrific clearing attempt by Andrew Peeke that turned into a goal against:
Jordan Harris finds a loose puck and gets the Habs on the board! pic.twitter.com/1rLc8jJhi9— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 18, 2022
The late period sequence was really weird:
Marcus Bjork got called for holding. The ensuing PK was really good with breakaway chances for both Vladislav Gavrikov and Nyquist.
Then, just as the Bjork penalty ended, Nyquist tripped Josh Anderson.
After another Jackets shorthanded breakaway, Sillinger stole the puck from Juraj Slafkovsky and drew a penalty. But then after the faceoff Silly went to the box himself for a high stick.
As the period reached its end and the various penalties expired, Montreal was back on the man advantage with Silly in the box. Joonas Korpisalo made a big save, but on the next faceoff, Anderson got the game-tying goal with just two seconds left in the period.
Josh Anderson scores a power-play goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets to make it 2-2 #CBJvsMTL #CBJ #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/bEm9PrvtBv— nopClips (@nopClips) November 18, 2022
Mathieu Olivier then fought Arber Xhekaj to end the period. Sure, like THAT is going to help...
Oh, maybe it did?
Some line shuffling finally granted us our wish of “Top Line Kent Johnson.” The result was.../kisses fingers
Aye Aye Cap'n pic.twitter.com/IWF6W2NLX3— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) November 18, 2022
The patience and pinpoint passing by Johnny Gaudreau and Johnson is so high-level. I really hope the two of them stick together for a few games here, at least until Patrik Laine comes back.
Montreal eventually tied it up thanks to a turnover and then some typical “chickens with their heads cut off” defensive zone play from the Blue Jackets.
#Habs Mike Hoffman's patience leads to Brendan Gallagher goal vs #BlueJackets— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) November 18, 2022
Assists: Dvorak, Hoffman@AllHabs @RocketSports #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/19Kgm72eBH
But the goal scoring was just getting started! Sean Kuraly was mad about what could have been an interference or holding penalty on Xhekaj (one of the refs got hurt, so the remaining one was bound to miss some calls), but got revenge thanks to a nifty breakaway goal:
a goal for the hometown kid pic.twitter.com/5zky4J0u9p— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) November 18, 2022
Exactly a minute later, Olivier scored off a set play. Why was the fourth line getting an offensive zone start? I don’t know! They really shouldn’t! But this was cool:
IT'S AN OLIVIER SANDWICH pic.twitter.com/yB9BHpbEpu— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) November 18, 2022
Turns out that was an important insurance goal, as the Habs got one back just eight seconds later. Nick Suzuki skated deep into the zone and fired a tight angle shot at the crease. It deflected off of Korpi’s pad.
NICK SUZUKI CALLED BANK pic.twitter.com/R5RNS9ZECs— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 18, 2022
Shortly after Montreal called a timeout and pulled their goalie, Kuraly added an empty netter for his second goal of the night.
Once again, Korpisalo gives up more goals than you’d expect from a “good” game for a goalie, but he earned 38 saves and stood on his head at times, so yeah...good game, Korpi!
His shots against in four starts this season: 45, 34, 46, 42.
Team leader in 5v5 CF%: Marcus Bjork! He has impressed me so far. He is some hidden gem? Maybe not, but he’s clearly an NHL caliber defenseman.
Some may say that this win is a bad thing because the team should be in tank mode, and Montreal could be another team in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. I say it’s way too early to be thinking about that. It’s clear that Columbus isn’t a good team and winning a high pick would be nice, but so much can happen between now and then and much of it is out of their control. In the immediate term, I prefer to watch entertaining hockey, which is what this game was. I want to see individual players improve, especially those who will be here past this season. Sillinger continuing a goal streak is a good thing. So is Kent Johnson getting to play on the top line, finally.
Montreal is not a good team, nor is Philadelphia. But it’s comforting to see the Jackets win these games that they’re supposed to, especially at home. That’s improvement from a few weeks ago when they laid an egg against Arizona.
The long homestand continues with two weekend games: Detroit on Saturday and Florida on Sunday. Then a rematch against these Canadiens on Wednesday.