Recap: Get off on the right foot

Blue Jackets win their opener in OT, 3-2

It wasn’t easy, but the Columbus Blue Jackets left Detroit last night with two points, thanks to a 3-2 overtime win over the host Red Wings.

The game did not start out well. The Wings controlled play early. The Jackets just could not get the puck cleanly through the neutral zone, and each trip into the offensive zone ended quickly.

Things finally turned in the first power play opportunity. (Credit to Josh Anderson, whose forecheck pressure forced Tyler Bertuzzi to send the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty) The power play showed some features we didn’t see last year: play behind the net, and quick decisions with the puck. The play went through Pierre-Luc Dubois behind the net. Nick Foligno passed to Dubois, who immediately passed it around to Artemi Panarin. Panarin sent it right back to Dubois, who found Cam Atkinson camped out in the right faceoff circle. Rather than hold on the puck - like they all would have done last season - Cam fired a one timer through traffic and past Jimmy Howard for the opening goal.

The worst part of the first period? Fox Sports Ohio had a glitch with their score bug. It was gone entirely for the first 10 minutes, which meant those of us watching had no idea how much time had elapsed. Eventually we could see the score, but still no time. It was fixed after intermission, but that was an embarrassing moment for the network. Maybe if they had broadcast a preseason game they could have fixed any bugs.

Midway through the second, Detroit tied it up. Anthony Mantha dumped the puck deep to Gustav Nyquist. Dean Kukan went to hit Nyquist and whiffed. Dylan Larkin was right there to pick up the puck at the red line. This sucked Brandon Dubinsky from center ice to challenge Larkin, while Gabriel Carlsson got tied up with Mantha at the faceoff circle. This left rookie Dennis Cholowski - who was trailing the play - to come in uncovered. He received Larkin’s centering pass and easily scored past Joonas Korpisalo.

We covered how the power play showed improvement. In the second period, the much maligned penalty kill also had a moment to shine. Late in an Anderson penalty, Dubinsky’s active stick pickpocketed Cholowski, and Anthony Duclair was off to the races with Dubinsky right behind. As they raced down the ice, Anderson’s penalty expired and he joined them. Duclair reached the goal, made a spin move, and passed across the top of the crease to Dubinsky. Dubi tipped the puck towards Howard and Anderson tapped it in for the go-ahead goal.

The PK giveth and the PK taketh away. Three minutes later, while Carlsson served an interference penalty (which was the right call, but verrrrrrrrry borderline), Nyquist entered the zone and made a nifty backwards pass to Larkin. Larkin passed towards the goal and Bertuzzi was at the doorstep to tip it past Korpisalo and tie the game.

That was the last goal that Korpisalo allowed, and at this point it’s worth recognizing how well Korpi played tonight. He wasn’t challenged often (only 20 shots on goal faced) but many of those shots were close range and he made several acrobatic saves. Can’t ask for more from a backup. Let’s hope he continues to make the most of the increasing opportunity he’ll get this season.

The third period was all Blue Jackets, with them outshooting the Wings 16-3. Somehow none of those shots went in, and the game went to overtime.

After a couple great saves by Korpi kept the Jackets alive, it was on Panarin to win the game. He stayed in the offensive zone for a long shift. While circling the zone he allowed Dubois and Ryan Murray to sub out and Foligno and Markus Nutivaara to come on. The three kept cycling and passing and eventually Panarin got the puck for exactly the shot he wanted, and he buried it.

Final Thoughts

The Brandon Dubinsky line was the best one of the night. They were physical, they played fast, and they were constantly making their presence felt all over the ice. The stats bear this out:

The power play looked better in the early going. Crisper passes, and quicker shots on goal. There was a power play late in the first where they maintained possession in the offensive zone for nearly the entire two minutes and created multiple shots on goal. They reverted to old habits later in the game and they’ll need to be aware of that going forward.

The penalty kill looks better. Riley Nash will of course be a big factor here, but I was surprised to see Anthony Duclair get PK shifts. His reputation was as an offensive player, but his speed and his physicality make him a natural here. Being the driver of that Anderson goal will certainly earn him more opportunities going forward.

Gabriel Carlsson and Dean Kukan got just under 10 minutes of ice time each. They were both just OK. Fortunately the top 4 played very well. Ryan Murray in particular was a pleasant surprise. We knew he could hold his own in the defensive zone, but he was more active offensively than I’m used to.

John Tortorella was not pleased with the play of the Wennberg and Nash lines at even strength. He started shuffling those six forwards to try to spark something. Keep an eye on this tomorrow night. The Wennberg line was good in the first period but more invisible after that. Sonny Milano showed some grit, but only got 7:30 of ice time and had 0 shot attempts.

I don’t worry about faceoffs, but it’s worth noting the Jackets won in the circle 57% of the time. Dubinsky was 75% and Dubois was 59%.

Up Next

No time to rest, as the home opener is tonight vs. Carolina. See you at Nationwide!

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