The Blue Jackets didn't have their best stuff tonight, plain and simple.
Up and down the lineup, they weren't sharp and took a few too many penalties - but inside the dressing room, they've talked at length about eliminating excuses and working together to find a way to get results.
Tonight's overtime win over the Dallas Stars would seem to be a solid start.
John Tortorella called it a "step in the right direction" for a team that has struggled with confidence at times and hasn't had much to draw from in terms of experience coming from behind; the Blue Jackets can now add this thrilling finish at Nationwide Arena to their memory bank and store for future use.
Columbus is now 4-3-1 after Sam Gagner tied the game with 15 seconds left and Seth Jones (who was tremendous in the game, leading all players with 25:27 TOI) won the game 46 seconds into 3-on-3 overtime. Fun night at the rink, eh?
"That was awesome," defenseman Zach Werenski said. "Pretty cool."
Here's what we learned:
1. Excuses be damned: The "first game back after a road trip" is one of those hockey things that follows teams around. Tortorella didn't want his team to have that mindset going into the game, but he admitted post-game that it's basically undeniable. They were flat out of the gate - call it heavy legs, a West Coast trip hangover, whatever. But despite a sluggish first period, the Blue Jackets picked it up in the second period and began to gain their foothold in the game. The third period could have been frustrating (they didn't have many chances), but they stuck with it and once again used their superb penalty killing unit to keep them afloat. There was a myriad of reasons or excuses for them to lose this game 2-1, but they refused to accept such an outcome and were rewarded.
Video: Sergei Bobrovsky on his team's performance in OT win
2. Give Lars an assist: Werenski, who had two assists in the game and played nearly 22 minutes, said the play that led to Gagner's goal was drawn up by assistant coach Brad Larsen during the Blue Jackets' 30-second timeout after an offside call at the offensive blue line. Alexander Wennberg's face-off win against Radek Faksa got the puck on Werenski's stick, and he snapped a pass to Cam Atkinson who gained the offensive zone with speed. Rather than toss the puck toward the net, Atkinson made a patient play to Gagner (trailing the play) and it created open ice to shoot the puck. Gagner's half-slapper beat Antti Niemi to the blocker side, culminating a well-executed play that was, pardon the pun, just like they drew it up.
Video: DAL@CBJ: Gagner's PPG ties the game with seconds left
3. Hug your goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky has, for all intents and purposes, been playing lights-out since the start of the season. In eight starts, he's already recorded two shutouts and kept the Blue Jackets in games that should have been out of reach. Tonight, he was up to his usual tricks yet again. Through two periods, he'd been responsible for 10-12 saves of the "wow" variety and finished with 36 total. His best may have been a sliding rejection on Stars captain Jamie Benn, who thought he had plenty of net to shoot at until Bobrovsky exploded across the crease and slammed the door. In his last six starts, Bobrovsky is 4-1-1 with a 1.50 goals-against average and a ridiculous .954 save percentage.