TRAVERSE CITY - Monday's game between the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks was a bit microcosmic of the tournament on the whole.
Columbus' first game against Detroit wasn't good. They looked overwhelmed at times and showed signs of inexperience, but hey, that's all part of development, right?
"We deserved to lose," said president of hockey operations John Davidson.
They bounced back Saturday night against St. Louis in a game they needed to win, getting them right back in the tournament picture and setting the stage for an important game against Chicago today.
And, despite a slow start, the Blue Jackets took an early punch and bounced right back up.
They were down 2-0 less than seven minutes into the game and were struggling to generate offense, but defensively, they were in good stead. They kept the game within reach and, late in the second period, finally broke through.
Dante Salituro made it a 2-1 game just as a Columbus power play came to its end, and it was a goal that breathed new life into the Blue Jackets, who were playing without two defensemen (Zach Werenski, Jacob Graves) and a forward (Paul Bittner) due to injuries.
As mentioned earlier, Werenski has a lower body injury and was held out today as a precaution. His status for tomorrow's game appears doubtful at best.
In the third period, Traverse City invite Darby Llewellyn finished a centering pass from line mate Justin Scott at 2:56, pulling the Blue Jackets into a 2-2 tie. From there, it was perhaps the Blue Jackets' most polished period of the tournament; they gave Chicago very little room and created several opportunities to put the game out of reach.
And then, there was the game-winner.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, who by his own admission had a quiet first couple of games, potted the deciding goal at 10:04 of the third. The goal was officially unassisted, which is a fitting description of what was a terrific piece of individual work.
He gathered the puck low in the offensive zone, shook off a check and powered off the goal line to the front of the net, taking some defenders along for the ride. Dubois stayed with the puck and tucked it around Chicago goaltender Jake Hildebrand for the game's final goal.
"He showed his speed, his power, his strength," said coach John Madden. "That was just a power forward move."
Jeremy Brodeur picked up his second straight win in net and figures to get another start tomorrow.
"If it takes 59 minutes, so be it. It's still a win. The boys stuck with it," said coach John Madden. "It was a real character win. They didn't get frustrated by the goals not going in on their chances."