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Aftermath: Storm Downgraded

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets

There were two teams playing with pride on the line in Raleigh on Tuesday, and it certainly showed as the Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes pushed the contest to a shootout at PNC Arena. The Blue Jackets persevered to pull out a 4-3 win.

The Jackets encountered more of their recent first period problems, but they responded with resilience behind solid bounce-back goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky over the final 40 minutes and Scott Hartnell’s second standout performance in Carolina this season.

The Blue Jackets power play has been the backbone of their offense all season, but it had dried up considerably since the start of February. Since Feb. 3, the Jackets had scored only scored four power play goals entering their game against the Hurricanes. That power play found answers tonight to pull the Blue Jackets back into the game, going 3-for-5 on the night to help erase 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to start the game.

Todd Richards spoke earlier in the week about his team’s scoring troubles, recognizing that his squad had faced some good goaltenders but was also making those goaltenders look good by not creating traffic in front and winning loose puck battles. That was corrected, with Rene Bourque parked in front for the deflection that led to his first goal with the Blue Jackets and Hartnell winning the battles for two pucks in the low slot, the second of which tied the game in the third.

It was the first game since Dec. 18 in which the Jackets scored more than one power play goal.

If the Jackets played every game at PNC Arena, Hartnell probably wouldn’t complain. The Blue Jackets have played two games in Carolina this season, with Hartnell scoring two goals in each and in both games working hard in his office out in front of the Carolina crease. Hartnell scored both of his goals on the man advantage, giving him three power play goals in the last three games and seven on the season.

Kevin Connauton made his return to the lineup for the Blue Jackets after missing six games, and his wrister from the left point early in the second period caused problems for goaltender Cam Ward, who made the stop through traffic but couldn’t find the puck that had dropped between his legs. Hartnell stayed with the play and jammed the loose puck in behind Ward to pull the Jackets within a goal at 3-2. Hartnell again drove to the front of the net at 6:10 of the third period to support Artem Anisimov, who had the puck alone in front of Ward. The puck rolled off Anisimov’s stick, but Hartnell was right where he was supposed to be and deposited the puck into a gaping net.

Hartnell now has four goals and five points in his last four games. It was his fifth multi-goal game this year.

It has become Ryan Johansen’s patented move, and it’s difficult for goaltenders to resist. Johansen netted the shootout-winner in the third round against Ward, pushing the Jackets’ to 5-2 in the shootout. Johansen drifted over the blue line, put the puck to his forehand, and glided in on Ward waiting for the Canes’ goaltender to make the first move. Whether Johansen flicks the puck high glove or drags the puck late to his backhand depends on that first flinch, and Ward certainly blinked. Shuffling his feet and over-committing, Ward was out of position as Johansen deked to the backhand and slid the puck around him. Johansen is 4-for-7 in the shootout this year, with three winners.

Bobrovsky is 5-1 in the shootout and has stopped 25 of 29 shootout attempts this season (86.2 percent), the second-best percentage in the league this season among goalies with more than three appearances.

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