The Columbus Blue Jackets kicked off one of their tougher stretches of the schedule tonight with the first game of the western Canada road trip in a visit to the Calgary Flames. This game was extra notable for the obvious reason - this was Johnny Gaudreau’s first game back to Calgary since he signed with Columbus this past offseason.
"I won't take it personally. I'm a big #Eagles fan. If Jalen Hurts left, I'd probably boo him too."— Mike Zeisberger (@Zeisberger) January 23, 2023
-As #CBJ's Gaudreau returns to Calgary to play #Flames for 1st time tonight since leaving in summer, our recent chat on how he gets why some will boo himhttps://t.co/vW7z9t1WiL
A preview of the hostilities and festivities! pic.twitter.com/WRKH2pWEuW— Cami Kepke (@CamiKepkeGlobal) January 23, 2023
As for on-ice changes, the only one made was in net as the Jackets elected to start Joonas Korpisalo opposite Dan Vladar. Liam Foudy and Gavin Bayreuther remained healthy scratches. Here’s what happened.
Johnny Gaudreau and Erik Gudbranson got the start in their return to Calgary. Classy move by Brad Larsen.
The Flames started on the front foot, forcing three Korpisalo freezes in the first 70 seconds of the game, one each on the first three shots on goal. Kirill Marchenko got the first Blue Jackets shot, nearly beating Vladar and forcing a stoppage. Erik Gudbranson actually made a good defensive play on a half-decent break chance for Andrew Mangiapane, bothering the Flames player enough that he wasn’t able to get a shot off. Still, Calgary had 10 of the first 11 shot attempts through the first five minutes of the game.
Wtih 14:46 remaining, Johnny Gaudreau split the defense and earned a penalty shot but hit shot sailed wide of Vladar (much to the delight of the home crowd. Seconds after the poor penalty shot, he had a chance following a turnover, but was denied by Dan Vladar.
Johnny Gaudreau's penalty shot attempt against his old team didn't go nearly the way he would've liked... pic.twitter.com/hkdasVq5JI— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 24, 2023
He did get a video tribute though.
So many memories over the years, on and off the ice.— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 24, 2023
Welcome back, Johnny. pic.twitter.com/FAWOZe6xMm
The Columbus defense remained unable to clear the zone as the teams tossed the midway point of the period - multiple turnovers forced Joonas Korpisalo to play immensely in the frame, and he was equal to the challenge in a shooting gallery early. Into the final five minutes, the Blue Jackets managed to find their footing and clear the zone with moderate regularity, but still could not find any offensive zone pressure whatsoever to threaten Vladar.
With 3:39 remaining, Calgary forced a defensive zone turnover and cycled the puck through before Walker Duehr beat Joonas Korpisalo five hole. A deserved goal for Calgary, who dominated shot attempts in the first period.
Calgary goal (0-1): Duehr from Weegar, 16:20
Just after the Calgary goal, Columbus earned a power play as Trevor Lewis was boxed for holding Boone Jenner. Is it bad when the announcers are openly roasting your power play as its happening? That’s what happened. Imagine if we hired the architect of that to be the head coach. Weegar hit the post as the buzzer sounded - the first period ended 1-0 and it could have been FAR worse. Korpisalo had 17 saves on 18 shots, shot attempts favored Calgary 31 to 10. Yikes on bikes.
Line blender. No surprises there, back to Larsen’s old standbys. It didn’t matter - with his 19th of the year, Nazem Kadri took advantage of a misplayed puck by Vladislav Gavrikov and buried it past Korpisalo to make it 2-0.
Calgary goal (0-2): Kadri from Zadorov, 1:32
Just after the goal, Mathieu Olivier left the bench in pain (per Leah Hextall) after taking a shot off the inside of his ankle - a situation to monitor. After a few minutes, he did return to the bench.
Columbus, much like in the first period, could not establish any solid offensive zone time. Kent Johnson actually forced a Vladar save with Sillinger crashing the net, the first save the Calgary netminder had to make in several minutes. With 11:43 remaining, Columbus earned a second power play on the night as Dylan Dube was penalized for tripping Kent Johnson. This time, Columbus was able to take advantage - Kirill Marchenko let a wrister go from the right circle and beat Vladar to get on the score sheet. Gaudreau with the primary assist.
Columbus goal (1-2): Marchenko from Gaudreau and Laine, 9:04
Kirill brings the THRILL pic.twitter.com/PUhKiBIr9W— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) January 24, 2023
It took 9 seconds for Columbus to go back to the power play as Nazem Kadri took a delay of game penalty with a chance to tie the game. Columbus managed to take advantage as Gaudreau found Laine with a great cross-ice pass to tie the game on their second power play goal in less than a minute. Not exactly what you’d call “expected” but here we are!
Columbus goal (2-2): Laine from Gaudreau and Boqvist, 9:53
With 8:52 to go, Milan Lucic and Mathieu Olivier threw haymakers in a fight as both were sent off for five for fighting. With 7:30 to go, Dylan Dube smashed a shot off the post, Calgary’s second of the night, but it stayed out. With 5:51 to go, the Flames earned their first power play as Sean Kuraly went off for tripping.
After scrambling for much of the tail end of the power play, Blake Coleman got in on the forecheck and fed Mangiapane who beat Korpisalo over his glove hand.
Calgary goal (2-3): Mangiapane from Backlund, 16:17
Jenner and Backlund went off on the next shift, Jenner for unsportsmanlike conduct and Backlund for roughing, earning a four on four for both squads. With 2:17 to go, Gustav Nyquist drew a 4 on 3 as he was tripped by Jonathan Huberdeau. Columbus never set up with the advantage and generated no shots - Columbus lost the faceoff and never re-entered the zone with possession. The period ended with the Flames up 3-2 on the scoreboard and up 55-23 in 5v5 shot attempts.
The period started slowly with some back-and-forth action, though neither team seemed overly energetic or interested in pressing the issued through the first five minutes - more content trading dump-and-chases. With 15:26 remaining, Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau lead a 2-on-1 up ice and Jenner kept the puck and buried it past Vladar on a wrister off the post and in.
Columbus goal (3-3): Jenner from Laine, 4:34
JENNER, JENNER, JENNER.— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) January 24, 2023
BOOONE Jenner with the twisted wrister pic.twitter.com/XUhwPg9PhN
Seconds later, Calgary forced a scramble in front of the net but Korpisalo (sans goal stick) kept the puck out. With 10:38 remaining, Johnny Gaudreau hit the post, just barely being denied the go-ahead goal. Seconds later, Andrew Peeke turned the puck over in the defensive zone but Sean Kuraly made enough of a play to deny a clean shot on net.
With 6:21 remaining, Columbus took a penalty for too many men on the ice as Laine jumped on too early. Despite several dangerous chances for the Flames, the Blue Jackets killed the man advantage. The Flames forced an icing late and, despite dangerous chances, the Jackets forced overtime, tied 3-3.
Korpisalo denied several shots early, but the Jackets burned Gaudreau’s 53 second shift on defense without touching the puck. After Johnny Gaudreau had the puck stripped on a Columbus chance, Dylan Dube beat Joonas Korpisalo on a 2 on 1 to spoil Gaudreau’s return. Korpisalo deserved better.
Columbus Blue Jackets 3 Calgary Flames 4 (OT)
Thankfully for Johnny Gaudreau, this game is over. He’s likely been dreading this - he’s not a person who enjoys attention on himself and openly said pregame he wished this game was in October or November. Hopefully he feels better now that it’s over and can play a little more free. All things considered, he seemed to handle the boos and the hostile environment well.
Gaudreau was active all over the ice in this one, which was super fun to watch. Two power play goals were fun as well, though I think the team got a bit lucky with those.
“Erik Gudbranson, the best forechecker” - a sentence that was actually uttered tonight
Columbus’ play in their own zone remains the biggest concern for the team, frankly - it was a shooting gallery all night, and the Jackets could not effectively clear the zone, transition effectively, or cycle and possess the puck in the Flames zone. That bodes poorly for consistently competing in games!
Calgary, much like Carolina, forecheck hard, cycle, and throw pucks at the net. Calgary is second to Carolina in shot attempts per game in the NHL this season. Columbus is not good, but the Blue Jackets are also 31st in the NHL in shots per game (per ESPN during this broadcast). It would be super nice if Columbus tried hiring a coach that valued possession, shot attempts, and “not ceding possession” as part of game plans and systems. Maybe one day.
Hell of an effort from Korpisalo - he played out of his mind.
The Columbus Blue Jackets take on the Edmonton Oilers in the second game of their road trip on Wednesday night. Faceoff is set for 9:30 PM ET.