Make it two wins in a row for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who swept a back-to-back set for only the second time this year in their 11th try.
After stomping out the Blues' 13-game points streak with a 7-1 win at home on Friday night, the Blue Jackets hung in and played an excellent road game to take down the Ottawa Senators 4-1, a contest that was much closer than the final score indicated. The teams entered the third period in a scoreless tie, and the Jackets only clung to a 2-1 lead in the final minutes before Scott Hartnell’s empty netter followed by Mark Letestu’s exclamation point gave the Jackets a comfortable lead on the board.
The Jackets matched the compete level of the host Senators, and got some pretty solid goaltending to boot in a quality road win.
When Sergei Bobrovsky went down with a groin injury right before the All-Star break, Todd Richards claimed the team was completely comfortable with Curtis McElhinney carrying the bulk of the workload for the next several weeks. After all, he’d carried that workload last season when Bobrovsky was hurt. For the last couple of games, McElhinney has certainly played like a No. 1 goaltender.
McElhinney made 34 saves in Ottawa after making 32 saves the previous night against St. Louis. But tonight’s task was taller for the Jackets’ goaltender, not playing with last night’s goal support and having to make several key stops throughout the first two periods on a handful of odd-man rushes to keep the game scoreless going to the third.
His best stop came late in the third, when Ottawa’s Mark Stone had a yawning net with the Senators trailing by a goal. McElhinney reached back with the paddle of his stick and got enough of the puck to deflect it up and over the cage and preserve the lead.
Good Times Roll
Players said after the win on Friday night that a six-goal win wouldn’t mean much if the Jackets didn’t follow it up with a good effort in Ottawa. Certainly that applies to the game as a whole, but on a smaller scale it applies to individuals who had big nights against the Blues and needed to carry that confidence forward.
Cam Atkinson continued a solid week, scoring his third goal in six games and again doing so by being at the back post and staying on the loose puck at the side of the net. Atkinson’s goal opened the scoring and Nick Foligno complimented that tally with another goal 4:30 later.
Options on D
The Blue Jackets' decision to carry nine defensemen came in handy today, after the Jackets lost both James Wisniewski and Ryan Murray in Friday's game. Losing a big-minutes defenseman is difficult, but losing two for the road half of a back-to-back is asking a lot from your blue line. Dalton Prout and Cody Goloubef responded in a big way for the Jackets.
Prout brought a physical presence, fighting Chris Neil in the second when the Senators were trying to establish position in front of McElhinney’s crease. Goloubef hadn’t played since Jan. 14 but stepped back into the lineup and played 19:23. Goloubef was solid throughout and registered an assist on the Foligno goal and a plus-1 rating.