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Aftermath: Wingin’ It

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets

It’s hardly a recipe for success, but for the second straight night the Blue Jackets overcame early adversity to gut out an impressive road win.

Two days after overcoming a two-goal first period deficit in Carolina, the Blue Jackets again found themselves behind the eight-ball early when Luke Adam's double-minor for high-sticking led to a Justin Abdelkader power play goal just 7:49 into the game. It was the third straight game in which the Jackets surrendered a power play goal in the first period to trail in a hockey game, and it was the 10th power play goal the Jackets had surrendered in the last six games.

While that comes across as an indictment, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the Blue Jackets rebounded with a pair of first period goals of their own, including Scott Hartnell’s fifth in five games, to take the lead. They held onto that lead in part due to outstanding penalty-killing on their way to a 3-1 win.

“I thought we came out right from the start, getting right into the game and doing a lot of good things 5-on-5,” said coach Todd Richards. “We take a penalty unfortunately and they score the goal, but I liked the way the guys refocused and got back to work and scored a couple of goals. I thought we were involved and invested in the game early.”

The Jackets can also thank goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for arguably his best performance this season, as the Jackets joined the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens as the only teams to beat the Red Wings twice at Joe Louis Arena this season.

While the Jackets' power play bailed Bobrovsky out of a tough start Tuesday, it was Bobrovsky who was nearly unbeatable all night in Detroit to help the Blue Jackets’ three goals on 26 shots to hold up.

Bobrovsky made 41 saves, including seven against the Red Wings power play, to secure his 19th win of the season. His net was under constant fire in the third period, when the Red Wings out-shot Columbus 13-1. Not only was Bobrovsky making the saves he needed to make, but he was also providing a sense of calm in net for the Jackets. There were few rebounds and few second opportunities as Bobrovsky made the difficult look routine and it became clearer that a two-goal hole against Bob was too big a gap on this night.

Richards lauded his team’s 5-on-5 game in front of Bobrovsky, but added, “When you allow him to see the puck, there aren’t too many that he’s going to miss.”

The Detroit power play was the top attack in the NHL coming into Thursday night’s game, scoring in six consecutive games. They managed to extend that streak to seven games in the first on the Abdelkader deflection, but afterwards were stifled by the Blue Jackets penalty kill. The Jackets were 5-for-6 on the kill after going just 14-for-23 over their previous five games.

Perhaps the Jackets’ success shouldn’t be shocking, as they have performed quite well against top-ranked power plays for much of the season. They locked down on the Capitals and Penguins when each was at the time ranked No. 1, with Jack Johnson and David Savard playing a major role. They did again tonight, each logging over five minutes of shorthanded ice time and combining to block six shots. Mark Letestu played 4:59 of his 16:20 on the penalty kill and won 10 of his 15 draws on the night. He was the only Jacket to break 50 percent in the circle, again highlighting his usefulness on the PK.

Defenseman Fedor Tyutin scored his first goal in 21 games to tie the game in the first period. It was arguably Tyutin’s best all-around game this season, with a plus-2 rating and more than three minutes on the kill.

Cam Atkinson also got off the schneid in the third period, scoring the Jackets’ fourth power play goal in two games. Atkinson had gone 12 games without a goal, but blew a wrister past Jimmy Howard to put the Jackets ahead 3-1 late in the second. Savard pushed the puck through the neutral zone, and as the Red Wings prepared to challenge at the blue line, Savard dropped the puck back to center ice for the oncoming Atkinson. Atkinson blew past Jonathan Ericsson and had a clear lane to beat Howard.

Keep an eye out for Atkinson now. It’s been an up-and-down year with a few lengthy droughts, but he has the peace of mind of a new contract and he has had the tendency to break through in bunches. Atkinson had gone 17 games without a goal before breaking a drought on Jan. 27, then going on to score five goals in the next nine games. The Jackets would love to see him get that hot again.

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