The Blue Jackets rallied from a trio of deficits to earn a 4-3 victory vs. Winnipeg to go into All-Star break on Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena.
Game in a Paragraph
In a game that featured back-and-forth action and plenty of scoring chances, Columbus thrice answered Winnipeg goals with tying tallies in the first 40 minutes. Then, with 5:38 to play, Oliver Bjorkstrand's second goal of the game gave the Blue Jackets the victory, their 16th in the past 22 games and season-best sixth in a row.
Video: Bjorkstrand leads Blue Jackets to 4-3 win vs. Jets
Quote of the Game
Head coach John Tortorella: "I thought we played a good game. We just had to keep on climbing the hill to tie the game up, but I thought we played a good game. They should feel real good about themselves."
- Pierre-Luc Dubois had a career-high-tying trio of assists to give him four helpers in the last two games and a 5-15-20 line in the last 20 games. It is the third time in his career he had three assists.
- Bjorkstrand scored two goals, giving him a pair of multigoal games since coming back from injury and nine goals in his last six games. Four of those six have been two-goal contests, and his 16 goals now lead the Blue Jackets this season.
- Seth Jones scored his fifth goal of the year in his last game before representing the Jackets at the league's annual All-Star Game on Saturday. He also added an assist on Bjorkstrand's game-winning goal.
Quick Recap (PHOTO GALLERY)
The Blue Jackets had a great chance on the game's opening shift as Dubois fed Nick Foligno behind the Jets' defense, but goalie Laurent Brossoit made a glove snag of Foligno's shot to keep Columbus from taking an early lead.
Soon enough, it was the Jets on the board, scoring on their first shot on goal of the game. Mathieu Perreault's shot was blocked by Scott Harrington, but Mason Appleton found the puck and quickly swatted it with one hand past Elvis Merzlikins to make it a 1-0 game at 4:38.
Columbus answered 1:28 later as Jones made it a 1-1 game. A long shift in the zone by the top line paid off as Foligno left Jones a pass at the top of the left circle, and the defenseman carried it all the way to the net and found space through Brossoit to send the puck home.
Winnipeg reclaimed the lead with 2:54 left in the period, though, as Kyle Connor scored. Anthony Bitetto had some time at the left point and threw a floating puck toward the net, and Connor was left alone in front to tip the puck past Merzlikins for his 25th goal of the season.
Things continued to get a bit wild in the second as the game was played at a high pace with some open spaces for each team to exploit. Columbus needed just 1:28 to tie the game at 2, as Dubois carried the puck behind the net then worked a nice give-and-go with Bjorkstrand that the Danish winger finished quickly through the legs of Brossoit from low on the right.
Merzlikins made a fantastic save with eight minutes to play in the period, as Blake Wheeler came in alone and tried to deke the CBJ goali. But Merzlikins made a stretching right pad save and then was able to -- from his stomach -- collect the puck as it landed between his legs near the post.
Video: WPG@CBJ: Merzlikins sprawls for scorpion-style stop
Winnipeg would make it a 3-2 game, though, at 15:33 of the period on the power play. It was Neal Pionk who got the goal, sending a seeing-eye shot from the blue line through traffic and into the net past Merzlikins. But Columbus got its own power-play goal with 2:05 left in the period, as some good movement got the puck to Dubois in the left circle; his shot leaked through Brossoit, and Gustav Nyquist dove into the crease to tap it home for the chili goal and his 11th tally of the season.
There were some chances but more caution in the third period before Bjorkstrand made the game-winning play. He fought through Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov along the right-wing boards for the puck off a long feed from Jones, advanced on Brossoit and quickly fired a shot over the goalie's near-post shoulder from close range to give Columbus the lead at 14:22.
1. Bjorkstrand just can't stop scoring goals, becoming the first player in Blue Jackets history to have three straight games with multiple tallies. Even more impressive is that he missed a 13-game stretch in the middle there, as he had two tallies before being hurt in a game Dec. 21 vs. New Jersey. After nearly a month off, he has two straight two-goal games, and he's showcased a variety of skills to score them. Sure, his shot is among the best in the game -- "It's just a hell of a shot," Tortorella said of the game-winner he tucked under the bar -- but the more impressive play on the final score was how he fought through Kulikov's check to get in position to score. "I thought he was gonna get crunched," Foligno said. "But he's so slippery. That's a great goal." For his part, the goal-scoring outburst doesn't seem to be going to Bjorkstrand's head. "When pucks are going in, you just have to find a way to hold on to that," he said after his second straight third-period winner.
2. That whole line was excellent throughout the game, as the Foligno-Dubois-Bjorkstrand trio was a bear to handle. Not only did the trio have three goals on the night at even strength, they had a 5-2 edge in high-danger scoring chances when on the ice and an 18-12 edge in shot attempts while facing some pretty strong Jets opposition. It was a line Tortorella turned to in the third period Sunday in Madison Square Garden, and it has five goals in four periods since. "It was a good line," the head coach siad. "It was a good line when we put them together the other night and a good line again tonight." Bjorkstrand added, "We're playing the right way and moving the puck and trying to get pucks to the net. I think we're just all playing with confidence. That's what you have to do to be successful on a line."
3. Here's a couple of stats that turn your head -- the Blue Jackets are now 10-1-4 when tied after the second period, with the 10 wins tying Minnesota for the most in the NHL in that situation. And in the last 22 games, Columbus has outscored teams 28-10 in the third period. The Blue Jackets have had ice in their veins when games have been their tightest, just like this one tonight vs. the Jets. "I just think they keep playing," Tortorella said. "Through it all here, there's been no anxiousness I think. They just keep on playing. It's just a matter of staying about it and trying to find a way." More often than not for the past two months, the Blue Jackets have found a way, and now they'll be in the thick of a playoff race when they get back from break. What more can you ask for?
Winnipeg had a 30-29 edge in shots on goal, while Columbus capitalized on its lone power-play chance. The Jets were 1-for-2. ... Merzlikins made 27 saves for his fifth straight win and has a 1.00 GAA and a .970 save percentage over that streak. ... Jones' goal was his first since Dec. 5 vs. the New York Rangers. … Foligno extends his home-game point streak to seven games (2-5-7) and has a 2-2-4 line in his last five overall games. … Nyquist and Jones each scored in both games vs. Winnipeg this season. ... The Blue Jackets are 8-1-1 in the last 10 games at Nationwide Arena and have outscored teams 34-14 in that span. ... The crowd of 18,425 was the seventh sellout of the year in Nationwide Arena and the fifth in the last seven games at the downtown barn. ... Columbus finished the month of January with a 9-2-0 record (18 points). The Jackets .900 points percentage is the highest all-time for the month in franchise history.
Columbus made no changes to the lineup from Sunday's win at New York other than Merlzikins going into the net. Scratches were forward Sonny Milano, defenseman Adam Clendening and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.
The Blue Jackets are on hiatus until a Feb. 1 afternoon game at Buffalo. The All-Star Game will be held Saturday and then the team will enjoy its five-day off period before getting back to action against the Sabres.