The Blue Jackets extended their season-long winning streak to four games with a 3-2 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers, pulling them within a point of the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division.
It wasn’t easy, as the Flyers tied the game late on a deflection by Brayden Schenn, his second goal of the night. But the new “bend, don’t break” Jackets of December had a response of their own, and Kevin Connauton’s first goal as a Blue Jacket earned the Jackets two points in the standings. Here are some other lessons we learned from the Tuesday tilt.
The Blue Jackets held the Flyers to just 11 shots through two periods of play, the lowest total of any opponent this season after 40 minutes. The Jackets controlled possession and the flow of the game because of sound positioning, but also because of their speed game. Todd Richards added some newer wrinkles to his line combinations, with Jack Skille flanking Ryan Johansen and Brian Gibbons joining Nick Foligno and Scott Hartnell. The new combos added some zip to both lines.
The Flyers generated little all night, with their lone goal through the first 59 minutes of play coming on the power play when Claude Giroux was able to build a full head of steam through the neutral zone, blew past a flat-footed James Wisniewski, and was able to set up Schenn off the resulting two-on-one. The Flyers were sluggish for much of the night after that goal, except for the final five minutes, when they again found their legs for a very strong penalty kill late, and then carried that momentum until Schenn again found the back of the net.
That momentum carried again to overtime, where the Blue Jackets were dominated for the first minute. With both teams needing a change, Connauton intercepted a centering pass, moved it ahead to Johansen, and realized he was going to win the race down the ice against Matt Read.
“With 4-on-4, they got caught with three guys low and you have that 2-on-1 and [Johansen] made a great play to draw that D over and create that breakaway for me.”
STAY HOT, POWER PLAY
The Blue Jackets converted on their first two power play chances of the night, with Boone Jenner’s stuff-in his fourth goal in four games and Scott Hartnell’s rebound goal his first in 13 games.
The Blue Jackets have had success on the power play and done well to funnel a lot of opportunities through the points, with Wisniewski, Johnson, and Savard firing from the blue line or Johansen looking for lanes from the tops of the circles. Of course that wasn’t abandoned completely, but the Blue Jackets made a much more conscious effort to create from below the circles on the power play.
Jenner’s goal came after he was fed the puck low in the right wing corner by Brandon Dubinsky and he tried to center it through the paint as he walked towards the front of the cage. The puck fortunately bounced right back to him for a slam-dunk. Hartnell’s goal ultimately came off a rebound from the end-boards, a rebound he fished out of a mess of flailing bodies around the Philadelphia net.
“Every teams scouts the other teams’ penalty kill and what they’re going to do, and we just wanted to get pucks to the net,” said Hartnell. “You cant score if you don’t get it to the net. Both our power play units have been doing well and it seems whoever starts is going to get some chances.”
INTENT TO GROW
Todd Richards did not disagree that the Blue Jackets' win over the Flyers was a game that perhaps might have had a different outcome a few weeks ago.
With 56 seconds to go in the third, the Flyers tied the game on a puck that trickled through Sergei Bobrovsky. It appeared as though the whistle had already blown the play dead, and the goal was waved off. Upon video review, the replay showed that the puck had indeed beaten Bobrovsky and the officials allowed the goal to stand.
For much of November, the Blue Jackets spoke of the bad breaks and the tough bounces that haunted them late in games, and this seemed like another perfect example. But a team that’s won three straight games often responds differently than one that’s lost three straight.
“When you aren’t winning games, (losing) is kind of the mentality. When you are winning games, you feel like you’re going to win," said Richards. "But you need to find ways to win first in order to gain that confidence.”