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Late Laine laser leads Jackets over Habs

Here’s what happened

Columbus Blue Jackets v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

In a rare early afternoon game, the Columbus Blue Jackets withstood a third period push from the struggling Montreal Canadiens to win 2-1.

The Canadiens — winners of just eight games all season — entered the game on a seven game losing streak, and were playing their second game behind new interim coach Martin St. Louis. St. Louis, you may recall, was a special teams consultant with the Blue Jackets in 2019, under his former Tampa and New York coach, John Tortorella.

The game started as well as it possibly could, with the top line scoring in just the second shift of the game. Patrik Laine used his stick to knock the puck loose in the offensive zone, and Oliver BJORKSTRAND did the rest. He somehow kept control of the puck through traffic in the slot, and after an attempted pass to Laine was deflected back to him, he skated the rest of the way to the net.

The Jackets kept up the pressure from there, with all four lines buzzing around the offensive zone. Aside from a sleepy stretch in the first half of the second period, the Jackets were controlling the game and it was only the unexpectedly great play of goaltender Samuel Montembeault that kept the game close.

Through 40 minutes, at 5v5, the Jackets dominated categories such as:

Shot attempts: 48-25
Unblocked shot attempts: 38-19
Shots: 29-14
High danger shot attempts: 13-4
Expected goals: 2.54-1.04

The longer the Jackets went without burying their chances, the more likely it was that one bad play could burn them, and let the Canadiens back in the game. That happened early in the third. Elvis Merzlikins swept the puck around the boards, but Vladislav Gavrikov couldn’t get a handle on it, and Ryan Poehling was able to intercept it and pass it to an open Cole Caufield.

From there, the Habs kept the pressure on and it was now Elvis’s turn to keep his team in the game.

After a big penalty kill with six minutes left, the game became more even. It also slowed down a lot, as it seemed like the teams were playing more conservatively so they could get to overtime.

With 1:27 left, Jeff Petry tripped BJORKSTRAND, giving the Jackets a huge opportunity to have a man advantage for the rest of regulation. Once they got their cycle going, they got shots from an unlikely source: Jakub Voracek. After two attempts, the puck finally got to Laine in the left circle. He unleashed his powerful slapshot, and got the game-winner:

Now for some superlatives:

That is Laine’s fourth game-winning goal. It is his third power play goal of the season, after none prior to Tuesday. It is his sixth straight game with a point. He has multiple points in five of the last six. He has scored a goal in four of the last five. Twelve points in the last six games.

Bottom line: Laine’s been unbelievably good over the last two weeks, and this is the Patty we hoped for when he was acquired just over a year ago. If he can keep his production near this level for the rest of the season, he’ll earn a nice payday from this team.

Final thoughts

Elvis hasn’t been great recently, but he was huge in the third period. He finished the day with 30 saves. I’m still surprised that Joonas Korpisalo didn’t get the start, considering the opponent and given that he hasn’t played since the third period on January 31, and hasn’t started since the last game in Montreal on January 30.

Andrew Peeke was noticeable in a good way, making plays on both ends of the ice. He was tied for the team lead with seven 5v5 shot attempts, and also had two hits, one takeaway, and one blocked shot.

I was happy to see Voracek reunited with the rookies Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov. Unfortunately they got a bit overwhelmed in the possession game, though they did get a couple good looks.

Credit to Montreal for playing hard all game. This was a tougher opponent than we saw two weeks ago. Making a coaching change can sometimes light a fire under teams, but it also felt like St. Louis got them to play a simpler game, and that has them playing with more confidence and making fewer mistakes. You’d also have to think that St. Louis will have a major impact on Cole Caufield’s development, given their shared diminutive size.

The Blue Jackets have won three straight, and five of the last six. They’ve also won five straight road games, and six of the last seven (Florida broke up both streaks). The power play has scored in three straight.

We’re 10 points out of the second wild card, with 36 games left. I’m not saying this is a playoff team, but if they keep this up...

In a cool gesture of Ohio sports solidarity, the boys arrived at the Bell Centre wearing Joe Burrow jerseys:

As a Browns fan I’m torn about saying this, but good luck to the Bengals tomorrow.

Up next

Sounds like the Jackets are going to party in Montreal tonight, then head to Calgary for a 9 p.m. EST start on Tuesday. The Flames and the Jackets have the longest win streaks in their respective conferences (credit to JLGP for dropping that stat in the postgame show).