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Blue Jackets find their game in win over Buffalo

Confident Columbus stuck with the plan while earning season's first victory

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Outside the Blue Jackets locker room, the panic button hadn't been pressed, but it had been located by fans and hockey analysts alike. 

Two games into the season, Columbus had an 0-2 record, was outscored 11-3 and had found little in the way of answers to the questions that had been asked of the team going into the season.  

It certainly wasn't the start the team wanted, either. But inside the locker room, there was still very little worry the team would find its game.  

Video: Texier on his game winning goal

"We have such a belief in here," captain Nick Foligno said after Monday night's 4-3 win that gave Columbus its first two points of the season. "We've gone down that road a few years ago when we were an immature team, we worried about what everyone else thought. We don't care at all. We are so focused on how we feel as a group, which is very confident and understanding that when we play the right way, we're going to win hockey games. 

"That's all we wanted to focus on tonight was playing the right way, playing the brand of hockey that we need to play consistently. We did that, and it's the reason why we got a really big win against a really good team right now." 

It helped the vibe inside the room going into the Buffalo clash that the Blue Jackets felt they had played some good minutes in the opening losses, a 4-1 setback at home vs. Toronto and a 7-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. 

It wasn't good enough, of course, as special teams killed the Blue Jackets in the opener and the team's transition defense evaporated midway through the loss to the Penguins. But Columbus looked back at the first two games and saw stretches where the team played its game and played it well, only to be undone by a lack of patience and composure once falling behind.  

The key, then, was to play the right way for a full 60 minutes -- or more, as it turned out -- against Buffalo. 

"You look at the scores and you think we laid a couple of eggs in our first two games," head coach John Tortorella said after the overtime triumph. "I don't think we did that at all. I think we played really well for a lot of the games, but our composure against Pittsburgh, it just blew up on us. We've been talking about that since then. 

"Tonight, in the third period, especially going into it 2-2 after being up 2-0, it was a really good test for us as far as staying within yourselves and not trying to do too much, and I thought we did a good job." 

Against the Sabres, there certainly were chances for the game to dissolve. After the Blue Jackets took a 2-0 lead in the opening period, Buffalo responded with a power-play goal and a tally off a turnover to knot the score at 2 in the second. But Columbus pushed early in the third and retook the lead 6:46 in on a power-play goal by Foligno.  

There was more adversity to come, as Buffalo scored a 6-on-4 goal with 1:14 left to again tie the score. The Blue Jackets again stuck with it, though, and got the winner off the stick of Alexandre Texier 2:08 into overtime. 

On the whole, Columbus had a 44-18 edge in shots on goal and a 63-50 advantage in shot attempts, held a 22-13 edge in scoring chances per Natural Stat Trick at 5-on-5, and didn't let Buffalo get its offense going through the neutral zone, limiting odd-man rush attempts. 

It was much closer to the style of game the Blue Jackets hope to play this season, which is to prevent the opposition from coming through the neutral zone with speed, then causing turnovers that lead to Columbus offense.  

"We didn't give them much at all," Tortorella said. "It's a team that was coming in flying high, has played very well their first couple of games. They had some attempts, but I thought we did a really good job, especially from the top of their circles to our blue line as far, as having people above the puck. So we continue to work at it. As I've talked about, whether you win or lose, that has to be in us this year is that patience as far as being above the puck." 

To the head coach, the X's and O's play was something to build on, but for the whole team, the more important reality was the Blue Jackets delivered a solid response at a time when it could have panicked. To Foligno, that's another sign of how far the team has come over the years.  

"I just think we know what's in this room regardless of the record," he said. "Obviously our record needs to get better so we can do what we want to do in the playoffs and so on, but it's the process. I think we believe in this room if we play like we did tonight, obviously shore up a few more things, we're going to give ourselves a great chance to win and also be the team we envision." 

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