The Blue Jackets’ troubles on home ice appear to be in the rear-view mirror after last night’s 5-0 win over the Maple Leafs, their fifth straight win at Nationwide Arena and their 11th straight game earning at least one point.
The Jackets were all over the Leafs from the first drop of the puck, jumping in front with three first-period goals and tacking on two more in the second. The final frame was mostly Sergei Bobrovsky’s time to shine, making 12 saves en route to his second shutout of the season. It was the Jackets' largest margin of victory in a shutout since Nov. 25 of last season, a 6-0 win over these same Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
With the victory, Todd Richards tied Ken Hitchcock for the franchise lead in coaching wins with 125.
It’s been a trying season for defenseman Ryan Murray, who’s been sidelined four different times with injuries to his knee and both ankles. Murray hadn’t played more than four consecutive games at any point this season, but was back in the lineup last night for just his 11th game. He certainly didn’t look like he’s been missing at all, playing a solid all-around game and scoring his first goal in 367 days (by his count). Murray snuck a wrister through traffic from the point that made it 4-0 and chased James Reimer from the game.
For weeks, the organization has insisted that Murray would play again this season if he was able to, as opposed to shutting him down for the summer, citing how important every game is to a young player’s development. But beyond that, it might have been just as important to get Murray on the ice to have a strong game like he had last night, to give him something to look back on positively after one of the more frustrating seasons of his career.
“I think that was the whole plan, to get back and to get some momentum going into the offseason because it has been frustrating,” said Murray, who also went down to block a shot late in the third period to preserve the Bobrovsky shutout. “For me, with all the rehab and missing so much time, I was frustrated all year. This feels pretty good to go out there and get a good win like this. Hopefully I can get a few more games here and head into the summer with good momentum.”
It was no surprise for Richards that Murray showed little rust, despite having Murray for so few games this season.
“I wasn’t concerned with him playing well, it was just about him getting in the lineup and playing games and getting reps out on the ice,” said Richards. “Now, he played really well tonight. And it’s what we expected out of Ryan. He’s done it a number of times this year where he’s come in off of an injury or missing some games, and he stepped right in and looked like he’s been playing the whole season.”
The Blue Jackets got one of their most wide-spread scoring efforts this year, with goals from all four lines on the night. Jeremy Morin capped off the scoring with his own high-zone seeing-eye wrister through traffic in the second period. In the first period, it was Artem Anisimov, Boone Jenner, and Scott Hartnell finding holes in Reimer with three goals on 14 first-period shots.
“We got contributions from a lot of different people tonight,” said Richards. “Obviously the offensive zone and scoring goals, but there were big plays all over the ice. If you look at the minutes played, I think everyone was in double digits. You’re able to play four lines and just roll four lines, and that’s because all the lines are going."
Jenner’s goal was his second in nine games since returning from a back injury on Mar. 21.
The Hartnell-Wennberg-Dano line certainly got the fans’ attention with a torrid scoring stretch in March, but with the calendar’s turn to April there is another line that is red-hot for the Blue Jackets. With Anisimov’s goal to open the scoring, the line of Anisimov, Nick Foligno, and Brandon Dubinsky has scored at least one goal in five straight games.
Anisimov’s goal off a slick Foligno feed in front of the net ended a seven game goal-scoring drought, but was his fourth point in four games. Dubinsky and Foligno have been the ones finding the back of the net more regularly. Foligno has points in seven of his last eight games (5-4-9), including a hat trick against the Penguins last Saturday. Dubinsky had two assists against the Leafs, extending his points streak to six games (3-6-9).