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FINAL: Avalanche 4, Blue Jackets 2

Werenski sets franchise record for career goals by a defenseman

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The Blue Jackets suffered a 4-2 setback against Colorado at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Saturday night.  

Game in a Paragraph 

Columbus took a pair of first period leads and had a 2-1 edge after one, but Cale Makar took care of that himself in the second with a pair of goals that gave Colorado a 3-2 lead after two. The Blue Jackets couldn't get the equalizer in the third period despite finishing the game with 41 shots on goal. 

Video: CBJ@COL: Werenski sneaks one-timer past Francouz

Quote of the Game

Head coach John Tortorella: "We had scoring chances. I thought both teams, it was a bit of a street hockey game with the amount of turnovers by both teams. Both teams generated a lot of offense."

CBJ Notables 

  • Zach Werenski tallied his fourth goal of the year and the 42nd of his NHL career, breaking the franchise record for goals by a defenseman previously held by Rostislav Klesla (41 goals, 2001-11).  
  • Emil Bemstrom scored a power-play goal for the second game in a row after going 15 games without a tally to start his NHL career. 

Quick Recap 

A back-and-forth first period started a wild game, as both teams had excellent looks in the first two minutes. Columbus then got on the board first just 4:55 into the game on the power play, as Seth Jones' shot was deflected to Bemstrom in the left circle, and the Swedish rookie quickly batted it out of the air and past Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz. 

Video: CBJ@COL: Bemstrom swats puck home for PPG

Joonas Korpisalo made some excellent saves in the first period, including a glove save on Nathan MacKinnon on a 2-on-1 and a deflection stop on Valeri Nichushkin, but Colorado did tie the score with its own power-play goal at 15:06. Sam Girard's shot from the center point got past Korpisalo through a screen to make it a 1-1 game. 

Columbus led 2-1, though, after the period thanks to Werenski's record-breaking goal with 53.9 seconds left in the period. Nick Foligno intercepted a clearing attempt and put in motion an offensive attack that ended when Werenski's shot from the top of the left circle hopped over Francouz's pad and crossed the line despite the goalie's desperate attempt to keep it out. 

Korpisalo also had some solid stops early in the second but eventually the dam broke with a pair of goals by rookie Makar. The defenseman tied the game at 10:52 as he snuck behind the play on the right side, took a pass from Ryan Graves, had time in the right circle and roofed a wrister past Korpisalo. 

His second goal came at 16:11, this one in transition. The NHL's leader in points for a rookie joined the rush, took a feed from left to right from Tyson Jost, and slid the puck five-hole to make it 3-2 in favor of the Avs. 

At 17:15, a major talking point occurred when Foligno was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct after a hit to the head of Avs center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The neutral zone hit sent Bellemare sprawling, and he did not return, while Foligno was called for charging on the play.

Columbus killed the major penalty, though, and the Blue Jackets had an excellent chance to tie the score about five minutes into the third on a power play as a puck popped into the air and landed in front of Cam Atkinson as he approached the net, but Francoiz denied him.  

Columbus pushed for the tying goal but couldn't find it, and Colorado iced the game with 2:06 to go when a turnover gave Nazem Kadri a chance to advance on Korpisalo before putting a shot over his blocker shoulder. 

3 Takeaways

1. Bemstrom heats up: If you're looking for a positive on this Blue Jackets season after the team fell to 6-8-3, it has to be that there's still some projection as to how good this team will be. A number of veterans are struggling to find their form, Tortorella has said, though most of them should pick it up and return to the numbers on the back of their hockey cards as time goes on. But it's also fun to think about how such players as Alexandre Texier and Bemstrom will grow throughout the season as well. Bemstrom tallied for the second straight game, and the obvious nose for the net the 20-year-old Swede has is starting to show itself on the score sheet. "The more I play, the more comfortable I get," he said. "Today I probably played my best game."

2. It's easy to see another game where the Blue Jackets had chances and didn't score, and that's true -- Columbus finished with 41 shots on goal, and Tortorella said the team had 20 scoring chances on the tally the staff tracks each game. But where the Blue Jackets lost the game was in the second period, as a pair of breakdowns led to the tying and eventual winning goals by Makar. With the offense not producing, the margin for error is thin, but defense was supposed to be the strength of the team. Hockey is a game of mistakes, but it feels like there's one too many critical errors per game happening right now. "I like a lot of the things we're doing as a team, but there's some breakdowns we have to clean up," Werenski said.

3. Foligno was contrite after the game for the hit on Bellemare. On the play, Foligno had Bellemare lined up for an open-ice hit before the Avs center pivoted and started to turn after making a pass. In trying to avoid him, the CBJ captain both tripped over Bellemare's skates and his elbow raised up, catching the Avs player in the head. Foligno said he reached out to the Colorado locker room to check on Bellemare, and that he at first had no idea that he had even caught him up high. "There was no intent to hit him like that at all," Foligno said. "I'm trying to line him up at the time and then he turns back and makes that play. It just happened so fast. I felt sick to my stomach when I saw that I hit him in the head."

Notable 

Korpisalo finished with 32 saves. ... Nyquist kept alive his streak of scoring in all eight Blue Jackets road games this year and has a 1-3-4 line in his past two games. … Foligno's assist gives him 3-6-9 and a plus-7 rating in his last eight games at Colorado. ... Columbus lost for the first time this year when scoring first, falling to 6-1-0. ... Colorado snapped a three-game winless streak vs. the Blue Jackets. ... Columbus won just 8 of the first 38 all-time showdowns vs. Colorado but entered 12-5-4 since including 7-2-1 in the last 10. ... Columbus finished 1-for-4 on the power play, while Colorado was 1-for-2 but did not score on the five-minute major. 

Roster Report 

The Blue Jackets returned Kole Sherwood into the lineup in place of Riley Nash. Nash was a healthy scratch along with defenseman Adam Clendening, while blueliner Markus Nutivaara remains out with an upper-body injury. 

Up Next 

Columbus completes its road trip Tuesday with a visit to Montreal to take on the Canadiens.  

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