Game #55 Recap: Ebb and Flow

On a night where the Blue Jackets were pushed to the limit by the Philadelphia Flyers, they bent - but didn't break. Thanks to some timely saves from Curtis McElhinney and some serious hustle from Matt Calvert and Brandon Dubinsky, the Jackets pushed back for a 5-2 road win.

I must apologize for this recap being on the quick and dirty side. Maybe someone forgot it was his night on the schedule. Maybe he went out and watched the game at a drinking "lounge" before going to watch the late showing of Kingsman with some friends.

Maybe you should go see Kingsman - it's really, really fun.

Y'know what else is really fun? The Blue Jackets scoring first on the road!

(Ok, so I'm not doing great at segues, either.)

Heading into the Wells Fargo Center after a frustrating loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday, the Jackets needed to get back to driving the play. The news that Nick Foligno would miss the game due to a lower body injury was a pretty big cause for concern on that score, but his absence seemed to galvanize the team to come out for a good start.

Earning the first power play of the game early in the first period thanks to David Savard drawing an interference call, head coach Todd Richards sent out a somewhat unconventional PP unit to test the Flyers kill. Ryan Johansen, Scott Hartnell, and James Wisniewski were no surprise, but it was interesting to see Alexander Wennberg and Kevin Connauton given the chance to play up a bit.

It worked out well, though Philly didn't do much to help themselves. After Johansen won the draw cleanly back to Connauton, he faked the pass over to Wiz before dishing back to Johansen at the half wall, who had a wide open passing lane to Hartnell.

#43 took a quick shot that went off Ray Emery's pads, and while Wennberg couldn't get into position to smack the rebound home, he was able to flip the puck towards a pinching Wiz, who had been left wide open.

With a clear lane and Emery caught out of position, Wisniewski had a wide open net to shoot on, and he didn't waste the opportunity.

1-0 Jackets - Wisniewski (7) from Wennberg (5) & Hartnell (24) @ 4:51 (PP)

One major weakness in recent games has been the CBJ giving up a goal after taking a lead, and the Flyers did try to keep that streak alive, but some good stops from Curtis McElhinney kept them in control, and when the offense finally had a chance to make a real attack on the Philly net, they got something we haven't seen in a while: A little bit of puck luck.

David Savard got this one going with a shot from the point, but then things get a little weird: Corey Tropp, inexplicably on the top line, did the best thing possible and had gone to the net, tying up Michael Del Zotto and screening out Ray Emery.

The puck fired in from Savard hit Tropp, caromed across the crease, and struck Ryan Johansen in the elbow as he skated towards the crease. The puck then rebounded off Luke Schenn's stick shaft, and finally bounced into the open side of the net.

Not surprisingly, this went to video review, but wonder of wonders, the goal would be upheld, giving Johansen his 21st of the year, and the Jackets a 2-0 lead.

2-0 - Johansen (21) from Tropp (5) & Savard (13) @ 6:39

Both teams had some opportunities in the remainder of the period, but neither found the back of the net despite Philly eventually outshooting the visitors 10-7, and dominating most of the faceoff draws.

That trend of getting killed on the #FancyStats continued in the second period, and the team didn't look much better to an eye test. Philly came out of their locker room with a purpose, and it seemed like they were constantly putting shots on net - particularly since they would get two power plays during the frame.

Neither power play paid off, in one case thanks to an incredible lunging save by C-Mac on Jakub Voracek that probably SHOULD have been a goal, but in the final minutes of the period, everything started to come apart.

Coming off their second, unsuccessful power play, the Flyers were still moving the puck like they had an extra skater, and it finally paid off for Wayne Simmonds when he redirected a Del Zotto point shot through a screening Chris VandeVelde.

2-1 - Simmonds (22) from Del Zotto (15) and Schenn (7) @ 17:25

That goal cracked the Jackets' composure, and the defense in particular was caught scrambling as time wound down on the period. Hemmed into their own zone and unable to separate the attackers from the puck, the only hope was that they'd manage to buy enough time to get out of the period and regroup with the 1 goal lead intact.

A point shot from Michael Del Zotto would put the nail in that coffin.

2-2 - Del Zotto from Umberger (5) and White (3) @ 19:08

Time wound down on the second period, and when the smoke had cleared the Flyers had outshot the Jackets 20-6 in that period alone. If Curtis McElhinney hadn't been on his game for 99% of that period (and the first goal he really couldn't do much about with the screen that had been set in front of him), this game could have easily slid into "bloodbath" territory.

As it was, the Jackets needed to find a much better effort for the third period...and to many people's considerable surprise, they did.

Like a freight train gathering steam, Columbus started the period slowly, testing Emery a few times, but giving hints of more to come thanks to a few odd man bursts through the Flyers defense.

That effort began paying off just before the midway point, when the Calvert - Dubinsky - Atkinson line broke in, had two solid scoring attempts, and had just begun collapsing back towards the blue line when Dubi stripped the puck away from Vincent LeCavalier. Turning hard and firing a quick pass back down to Cam Atkinson, he made a perfect cross-crease pass to Matt Calvert, and Matty Hustle deposited the tiebreaker before Emery was able to close the gap.

3-2 Jackets - Calvert (8) from Atkinson (11) and Dubinsky (13) @ 9:54

That assist gave Atkinson his sixth point in as many games, but we weren't done yet.

After weathering a couple of quick attempts by the Flyers to even things up, Scott Hartnell lead Johansen and a double-shifted Dubinsky back into the Philly offensive zone. Hartnell and Dubi played a bit of pitch and catch as the centerman went to the net, followed by a perfectly timed shot from Hartnell that went off the netminder's pads and onto Dubinsky's stick for the lay-up.

4-2 - Dubinsky (6) from Hartnell (24) @ 13:28

That goal gave Dubinsky a three game scoring streak - tying the longest of his career. Let's see if we can keep that train rolling, huh?

I don't want to suggest the Flyers completely collapsed at this point - they certainly made a good attempt to get some offense going - but as the next few minutes wound down, it was clear that the Jackets had control of the game. Flyers head coach Craig Berube made the call to pull Emery with a little over 2:30 to play, and almost got burned by it a minute later when Cam Atkinson followed the puck back into the Philly zone, managed to intercept a pass, turned, and fired...his shot sailing over the top of the net by a good four feet. Oops.

If the last month or so was any indication, that empty net faux pas ought to have lead to a Philly goal, but luck, the great pumpkin, or some mysterious cosmic energy which unites all living beings was with Columbus tonight, and not only would McElhinney make a save on the shot attempt that followed, but Ryan Johansen would win the defensive zone faceoff against Claude Giroux, allowing Alexander Wennberg to chase the puck down and flip it out of the zone, where Matt Calvert picked it up and trucked through Voracek, virtually carrying his former teammate down to the empty net before depositing his second of the night.

5-2 - Calvert (9) from Wennberg (6) and Johansen (31) @ 19:04 - EN

With the lead comfortably secured, that was basically all she wrote for this game, and it was clear that a lot of Flyers fans were heading for the exits well before the horn sounded.

It wasn't a pretty road game by any means - and one look at the posession numbers will show that Philly probably deserved to win this just based on their control of the puck (and not to mention 44(!) shots on goal), but Columbus got good saves when they needed them, a little puck luck when it mattered, and powered through the back half of the third period with a strong road effort.

This game certainly won't be held up as a blueprint on how to win on the road, but for tonight, it was effective. Good enough.

Next up, a visit to our old friends in Pittsburgh on Thursday - a nationally televised game, no less! Here's hoping for a similar end result, but perhaps a bit more consistent effort throughout.

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