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Aftermath: Hats Off to Hartnell

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets
Make it four in a row and seven of eight for the surging Blue Jackets, who stuck to their come-from-behind recipe to defeat the Anaheim Ducks, who came into Nationwide Arena tied for first overall in the NHL with 99 points.

The Blue Jackets got off to a slow start, as has been the norm over the past two weeks. But as has become routine over that stretch, the Jackets found their legs in the second period and attacked in droves in the second period.

Scott Hartnell continued his goal scoring dominance in the month of March with a hat trick on Tuesday night, the Blue Jackets’ first on home ice since Mar. 23, 2012 (RJ Umberger) and second overall since Apr. 2013 (Cam Atkinson). For Hartnell, it was his first hat trick since Apr. 15, 2013 against the Canadiens.

There’s no need to look that far back to find a hot-handed Hartnell, who now has 11 goals in his last 11 games, along with two assists. Fans at Nationwide Arena saw every shade of Hartnell’s offensive game. He got the Jackets on the board late in the first, camped out in front of the net with his stick on the ice presenting a back-door target for Ryan Johansen to find.

In the second, it was Hartnell benefiting from a forced neutral zone turnover by Marko Dano and a quick-transition feed from new Jacket William Karlsson to streak behind the defense and wire a wrister past John Gibson. And in the final minute, the veteran out-muscled and out-willed young Sami Vatanen for a loose puck behind the net, cashing in for the eighth hat trick of his career.

“You never go out their with the intent in the game to get a hat trick,” said Hartnell, who had five two-goal games heading into tonight’s contest. “But when you’re on the power play and you’re playing with good players, good things happen.”

It wasn’t the prettiest of first periods, and the third period felt like a Last Stand for long stretches as the Jackets were out-shot 14-5 in a game where they were out-attempted 73-34. But the Jackets blitzed the Western Conference-leading Ducks often in the second period, and rode that strong-skating frame to a win.

The Jackets have fallen behind in each of their past six games, three times by two goals, but in each contest there has been that moment where a “bell went off” and snapped them back to life. Andrew Cogliano’s coast-to-coast goal at 14:21 of the first period seemed to be that moment, and the first to respond was Ryan Johansen.

Johansen was a dominant force through the second period, and it started with his defensive work in the first. Twice Johansen’s pressure at the blue line forced turnovers on the penalty kill, one forcing a James Wisniewski tripping penalty and the other a shot off the crossbar. Johansen was rewarded in the second period when video review upheld his stuff-in goal at 15:35 to catalyze the Jackets' comeback.

Far too often this season have the Jackets been victims of a “response goal,” allowing a goal shortly after scoring one of their own to negate a lead or sap momentum. But when you’re a team constantly playing from behind, and constantly finding ways to win, you’re likely going to turn up on the other end of the equation.

The Jackets were quick to answer twice in Tuesday’s contest, and their quick-strike offense played a large part in their winning effort. The Cogliano goal that lit the fire for the Jackets was answered by Hartnell’s first marker just 1:14 later. After a nifty move by Matt Beleskey at the front of the net made it 3-2 Ducks once again at 10:05, the Jackets absorbed the punch and came back with a jab and an uppercut. Hartnell netted his second of the game just 32 seconds later and Nick Foligno tacked on another just 1:11 after that.

That was enough for the Jackets, who rode a solid Sergei Bobrovsky to just their second win at Nationwide Arena in their last eight home games. And Bobrovsky does earn a lot of the credit, withstanding a Ducks barrage late and making one of his best saves of the season going post-to-post to rob Rickard Rakell with the tying goal on his stick.
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