It was never going to be easy, but the Jackets found a way to get it done. It wasn’t always pretty (although sometimes it really was) and there were some scary moments, but the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Vegas Golden Knights by a final score of 6-4. Oliver BJORKSTRAND and his linemates, Cole Sillinger and Max Domi led the way in this one, generating a total of nine points on the night. BJORKSTRAND notched his second career four point night, and Cole Sillinger earned his first career hat trick at just 18 years old. The entirety of that line was honored in the Three Stars of the Night at Nationwide Arena.
Here’s how it went down.
Just two minutes into the game the Jackets received their first power play thanks to the hustle of Cole Sillinger. The Blue Jackets wasted very little time taking advantage of their opportunity. Gus Nyquist received a pass down low beside the net. He sauced a beautiful pass across the zone to Patrik Laine. I probably don’t need to tell you that Laine one-timed a bullet past Vegas goalie Logan Thompson.
1-0 CBJ (Laine from Nyquist and Roslovic)
Vegas answered with a goal of their own shortly after. While under pressure, Sean Kuraly gift wrapped a pass to Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault calmly collected the puck, picked his spot and wired a wrister over Elvis’ glove for his team-leading 25th goal of the season.
from Kuraly unassisted)
Vegas started to really turn up the heat and the Blue Jackets were struggling to keep up. After Sean Kuraly won a defensive zone face-off, Vegas’ fourth line applied pressure along the boards and came away with the puck. A hustle play turned into a broken play, which turned into another Golden Knights goal.
2-1 Vegas (Carrier from Roy and Stephenson)
Oliver BJORKSTRAND tried to answer with a snipe of his own shortly after Vegas took the lead with a couple of chances in high-danger areas but the Golden Knights’ netminder was up to the task each time.
It wasn’t long before Oliver was rewarded for his strong play. Dean Kukan dumped the puck behind the Vegas net and BJORKSTRAND was flying to the zone on the forecheck, he got behind the defense to retrieve the puck and found Cole Sillinger in front of the net with a beautiful no-look, turnaround backhand pass. All Cole had to do was shovel the puck in the net.
2-2 (Sillinger from BJORKSTRAND and Kukan)
On the very next shift, the Maestro would add his second point of the night, this time via goal. Max Domi fed Oliver who was somehow all by himself in between the circles. The Great Dane one-timed a laser past Thompson for his 21st of the year.
3-2 (BJORKSTRAND from Domi and Kukan)
The momentum the Blue Jackets worked so hard to reclaim was jeopardized when Sean Kuraly went off for holding with just under 7 minutes remaining. It was a rough opening period for Sean. He was on ice for both Vegas goals and committed a very untimely penalty.
The Blue Jackets penalty kill was up the task, killing off the penalty without allowing a shot.
Just after the penalty ended, more were incoming. Max Domi and Alex Pietrangelo were tied up behind the play having words. As we all know, it doesn’t take much to set Max off, and when he decides to fight, it’s on. Pietrangelo was hesitant to drop the gloves, so Nic Hague joined the fray as the third man in. That action put the Jackets on the power play, and although there were some golden chances, the Jackets couldn’t find the back of the net.
An entertaining period that had a little bit of everything ended with the Jackets holding a 3-2 lead.
The Golden Knights came out of the locker room for the second period on a mission. They had the Kuraly line stuck in their own end for nearly two minutes, controlling the play. The Blue Jackets were bailed out only when a Vegas defenseman failed to knock down a clearing attempt with his glove, but rather his face, sending him to the ice with blood spilling from his mouth.
The Jackets used the pause to collect themselves and regain their composure. For the next few minutes, the teams traded chances, with both goalies making some big saves to keep the score the same.
Oliver BJORKSTRAND continued to lead the way tonight when he appeared to notch his second goal of the evening off a slapper from the top of the circle. Upon a closer look, it was actually Cole Sillinger who was credited with his second tally of the evening, tipping the shot on the way to the net. He’ll need to buy Oliver dinner tomorrow.
4-2 CBJ (Sillinger from BJORKSTRAND and Peeke)
The goals were coming in bunches at this point. On Sillinger’s next shift, he and Max Domi entered the zone on a two-on-one, sprung by none other than Ollie B. Max was thinking pass all the way and threaded a pass to Sillinger and he made sure he didn’t miss. It was the 18-year old rookie’s first career hat trick.
Cole Sillinger 18 years old and gets a hatty in the NHL…is that good? pic.twitter.com/k2fVIxhLUj— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) March 14, 2022
5-2 CBJ (Sillinger from Domi and BJORKSTRAND)
While the hats were being cleared from the ice, Vegas took the extra time to regroup after looking completely lost for much of the period. They quickly caught the Jackets on a line change, allowing former Blue Jackets draft pick, Keegan Kolesar, to carry the puck in on a 2-on-0 with Evgenii Dadonov. Kolesar fired a hard cross-crease pass to Dadonov who put the puck past a sprawling Merzlikins.
5-3 CBJ (Dadonov from Kolesar and Pietrangelo)
Another inopportune penalty threatened to swing the momentum back to the Golden Knights when Andrew Peeke was dinged for hooking. The penalty killers were once more up to the task, again denying Vegas a single shot.
The Jackets received their own opportunity on the man advantage not long after their kill. Oliver BJORKSTRAND was tripped entering the zone, giving the Jackets a chance to reclaim their three goal lead. The Blue Jackets generated better chances than Vegas, but also failed to score.
It looked as if Vegas could bring the game to within a goal when Chandler Stephenson had a breakaway chance, but Elvis stood tall with a half poke check, half pad save.
Vegas applied some pressure in the offensive zone in the final minute, but the Jackets were able to keep them off the board and retain their two goal lead heading into the final twenty minutes.
It seemed like Sean Kuraly had money on Vegas winning tonight. He took a slashing penalty just over two minutes into the period giving Vegas a prime opportunity to get back in the game.
The third time was the charm for the Golden Knights. Chandler Stephenson got behind the defense and put a shot on Merzlikins. Elvis made the strong initial save, but Andrew Peeke had his stick lifted by Jack Eichel, who then quickly popped the loose puck into the net.
5-4 CBJ (Eichel from Stephenson and Marchessault)
The goal was followed by about ten minutes of back and forth action without any results or even stoppages. The next stoppage occurred when Chandler Stephenson used his speed to get behind the Jackets defense yet again, forcing Vladislav Gavrikov to commit a hooking penalty to deny him a chance all alone against Merzlikins.
The Blue Jackets killed the penalty, but the Golden Knights weren’t done in the Blue Jackets end. Another defensive breakdown allowed Nic Hague a chance all alone in front of Elvis, but he was up to the task with a massive pad save to keep the lead intact.
The Blue Jackets were playing strictly defense for much of the third period, which was looking like recipe for disaster. You could have easily mistaken the Jackets for a bunch of bakers with how many icings they were producing trying to cling to their lead. The Blue Jackets committed at least five icings in the last two and a half minutes.
It was a bold strategy — and not one I would employ — but it eventually paid off when Zach Werenski was able to clear the zone without an icing. Eric Robinson picked up the puck in stride, and skated it the length of the ice and deposited the insurance goal to seal the deal.
Final 6-4 CBJ (Robinson from Werenski)
The Blue Jackets will enjoy a few days off before heading north of the border to take on the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night.