Time and again, these Blue Jackets have proven that doing things the hard way is of no significance to them. Such was the case tonight in Denver, when they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in a thriller at the Pepsi Center.
Let's rewind to when we were all slumping our shoulders a bit: a Nikita Nikitin high-sticking penalty put the Avalanche on the power play with just over two minutes left in regulation, and Stefan Elliot's power play tally gave Colorado a late 3-2 lead that loomed larger after the Jackets had a third period lead vanish in short order.
Rather than close up shop, the Blue Jackets needed only 35 seconds to put this game back on even terms and R.J. Umberger's eighth goal of the season might have been his biggest since arriving in Columbus five years ago. A lead pass through the neutral zone allowed Umberger to bust up the middle against Tyson Barrie, and backhand the puck through the five-hole of J.S. Giguere to tie the game 3-3 in the final 90 seconds.
The Blue Jackets' bench erupted, a few moments later, they got another prime opportunity with a power play late in regulation that almost burnt them - but the story of this game was a little good fortunate and a lot of heart. Bobrovsky made a huge save on Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog in overtime and in the final 30 seconds of sudden death, Nick Foligno snapped the puck through (again) Giguere's pads to give Columbus a massive two points in the standings.
It's getting late and we're all walking a little taller tonight. Let's break it down.
1. NO BETTER TIME THAN NOW: Umberger and Foligno have formed a really solid line with Johansen that's given Todd Richards quality minutes and quality shifts since being assembled, and the three big-body guys have consistently established their cycle game in opposition territory. The only thing they've been lacking is production, but they came through in the clutch tonight: Umberger's tying goal was a beauty and Foligno followed suit with an emphatic winner, capping a huge night for two guys who were looking to get off the schneid.
2. PENALTIES...KILLED: There was a critical juncture late in the second period after Letestu tied the game at 1-1 - Gaborik was whistled for a high-sticking penalty (double minor) and gave the Avalanche a four-minute power play that could have changed the game in Colorado's favor going into the third period. As it has done so many times this season, the Blue Jackets' penalty kill stepped to the fore and wiped out the double minor without issue. It gave Columbus a huge lift going to the third period and their early goal in the third can be traced back to the energy they got from that kill.
3. FINDING A WAY: This group has heard it all, that it's only in this because of their goaltender and can't score enough to win on a regular basis. But it's pretty clear that they don't hear the noise, and have put together four consecutive wins to tie eighth-place Detroit with 47 points. The Jackets are 20-16-7 with five games to play and have found a different way to get it done every night, which is the mark of a hockey team that is committed to doing whatever it takes for two points.