Atkinson’s 23rd, Bobrovsky’s Shutout Leads Way to Weekend Sweep

Sergei Bobrovsky posted his second shutout as the Blue Jackets score twice in the first period to beat Devils; Spring into break on six-game points-streak.

In a Festivus matinee (back-to-back Seinfeld references, really!) Sunday afternoon, the Columbus Blue Jackets rolled into Newark to face the New Jersey Devils.

Cam Atkinson scored his team-leading 23rd goal, extending his goal-streak to three games as part of a two-goal first period, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 39 saves as the Blue Jackets shutout the Devils, 3-0, for their second win in four days against New Jersey, pushing their win streak to a season-high four games.

Keith Kinkaid made the start for New Jersey, who came in 0-3-0 (.880 SV%, 3.73 GAA) in five career starts versus Columbus. In a bit of a surprise move, Bobrovsky, not Joonas Korpisalo, drew back into the crease, fresh off his 38-save, 4-3 win against Philadelphia Saturday afternoon. A performance John Tortorella lauded as the goalie’s best of the season. Bobrovsky entered with a 14-5-1 (.923, 2.31) career mark against the Devils.

Starting both weekend games, it’s the first time all season Bobrovsky has made starts on consecutive days, and also, his last five games coming into play today have gone swimmingly (4-0-1, .952, 1.40). If you’re trying to remember, Korpisalo last started Dec. 11 against the Canucks.

Bobrovsky was tested early as New Jersey spent the first few minutes of the first period in Columbus’ end before the Jackets were able to get the puck out and sustain zone time. On their first shot of the game, Artemi Panarin connected with Cam Atkinson for Atkinson’s 3rd goal in two days.

Panarin with the second chance on the pass keeps the play alive. For Cam, he has scored 17 of his 23 goals in the last 20 games for Columbus, only making his All-Star Game bid all the more a reality every day.

On the second shot of the game for Columbus, Alexander Wennberg found Oliver Bjorkstrand from the right face-off circle of Kinkaid. Bjorkstrand roofed the shot above the sprawling goaltender, the two goals coming just 1:28 apart.

Kinkaid received a Bronx cheer from the Prudential Center crowd on one of his two first period saves, coming just a little over a minute remaining. The Blue Jackets, with a bit of a statistical anomaly, scored on their first two shots on goal, only managing four shots the entire period. Kinkaid’s day was cut short midway through the second period after allowing Artemi Panarin’s backhand shot, a burst of speed from Panarin through the neutral zone, to extend the Jackets’ lead to 3-0. Panarin reclaimed the top spot in points on the team with 39 after his goal and assist on the afternoon.

MacKenzie Blackwood, who made his NHL debut against Columbus Thursday night, came in relief, the second time since Tuesday he's done that. He made nine-consecutive saves on the afternoon. Columbus nearly missed their second penalty shot attempt in as many days, as Panarin was dragged down on a break, but instead Columbus earned their third power play chance.

Failing to register a shot on goal on either of their first three chances, they hit the post on the first opportunity.

The Devils had 1:41 of a 5-on-3 chance late in the second period, in which Bobrovsky and the penalty kill stood tall. Including Ryan Murray, playing 36-straight shorthanded seconds, and the final 18 of the 5-on-3, without a stick as he tossed aside the broken lumber. Coming into play, the Jackets penalty kill was 11th in the league for the month of December (84.0%).

Panarin, coming out of the penalty box at the end of the 5-on-3 kill, had another solid look at a goal, the play nearly identical to the previous breakaway chance he had.

In the third period Bobrovsky was speared in the leg by Kyle Palmieri on a sequence in front of the net but stayed in the game.

Late in the third period, Bobrovsky was assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty after flopping on a play in front of the net. Goaltender interference was also called on the play, as Brett Seney made contact, but Bobrovsky’s feet off-the-ice exaggeration after contact got him the minor. Probably just taking a little umbrage for the spear earlier.

Prior to the opening face-off, Murray was back to the first pair with Seth Jones while Zach Werenski skated with Markus Nutivaara. Scott Harrington and David Savard formed the third paring. Murray played in his 300th NHL game today.

The Blue Jackets wore their blue home jerseys today as the Devils wore their white heritage uniforms. You could say the Blue Jackets own the Devils in Jersey. They are now 8-0-0 at The Rock, dating back to Nov. 1 2014, the last time the Devils won a home game over Columbus. Bobrovsky’s 39 saves are the most for him in a shutout in his career.

Now on a four-game winning streak, the victory pushes Columbus’ points streak to six games. They sit two points back of first place Washington in the Metropolitan Division, and go into the Christmas break on a jolly high. After Sunday, the NHL is on Christmas holiday through Dec. 26, with games resuming Thursday, Dec. 27.

Columbus will travel to Madison Square Garden to battle the Rangers, their second meeting this season, and first since the Rangers shootout win Nov. 10. Then Columbus will battle the Maple Leafs Friday, the 28th, so you figure Korpisalo draws back in for one of those contests.

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