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Labatt Blue What We Learned: CBJ 5, COL 4 (OT)

Blue Jackets persevere in OT over Colorado.

by Brian Hedger BlueJacketsNHL /

John Tortorella fielded a lot of questions at the Blue Jackets' morning skate Thursday, but one in particular was most relevant later that night at Nationwide Arena.

The Jackets' head coach was asked his opinion of the team's main strengths heading into the final 15 games of the regular season, and he purposely left his answer open-ended.

"I hope our strength is going to be our [resilience]," Tortorella said. "I am really anxious to see how some guys react here, so I'll give you a better answer in probably three weeks what our strengths were. If we're in [the Stanley Cup Playoffs], it was through [resilience], because that's what it's going to take to find our way here."

That's exactly what it took for Columbus to earn two more points in a game against the Colorado Avalanche, winning a turbulent game, 5-4, on Seth Jones' goal 59 seconds into overtime.

The Blue Jackets (35-28-5), who closed the gap on the New Jersey Devils for the first wild card in the Eastern Conference, trailed 2-0 in the first 7:07 of this game. They also scored four unanswered goals, including three in the second period, and then coughed up a 4-2 lead late in the third on two quick goals for Colorado (35-25-7).

Carl Soderberg's second of two goals tied it 4-4 with 3:28 left, and if ever the Jackets needed some resilience, it was right then. The first to show it was goalie Joonas Korpisalo, who had the tying goal sneak past him between his body and the left post to quiet the building.

Rather than melting down, Korpisalo steadied himself and erased that goal from memory. He reset his focus and got ready for another Colorado push.

Good thing he did.

The Blue Jackets turned the puck over with less than a minute left, Mikko Rantanen collected it and Korpisalo needed to make a huge save with his left pad off against Colorado's second-leading scorer - who'd already added two points on assists.

Imagine the feeling in the Blue Jackets' locker room had Rantanen scored that one, with 50.7 seconds left on the clock.

"I don't think they had many chances in the game, but he made some big saves at key times," Tortorella said. "Obviously, with [Rantanen], where that game was and where it was going, that's a huge save."

Korpisal was resilient, just like his teammates.

Tortorella also challenged the Blue Jackets during his lengthy morning press conference, saying the difficulties for several players, statistically, can't usurp the team's goal of qualifying for the playoffs.

"I do think you need to frame it in the right way, because I think some guys, they get nervous at this time [of year]," he said. "And I think some guys see the light at the end of the tunnel and think, 'You know what, if we don't get in, I'm done. We're done in a few weeks here.' It happens with athletes, that it's been a long year and they just want to get away. They haven't had a good year, or there's been some struggles, this and that, and they just want it to end."

He later called it, "giving in," and said both coaches and management will be watching over this final haul to see who does it. Thursday night, there was no quit to be found on the home bench, despite ample opportunities.

The light at the end of the tunnel was simply the end of the tunnel.

Colorado scored two goals in 12 seconds for that quick 2-0 lead and Boone Jenner provided the resilience, scoring just 42 seconds later to cut it in half.

The Avs tied it late, getting the first of two third-period goals off a fortunate deflection to Gabriel Landeskog, but there was Jones - ending it in OT just before Soderberg cross-checked him in the back.

Jones doubled over in pain but still forced a smile as he was mobbed by his teammates - perfect symmetry with the theme of the night. Resilience.

That's how the Blue Jackets won this game, which was their first time winning more than two in a row since November's season-high six-game winning streak. The difference between then and now can be found in the schedule, which only has 14 games left before the postseason.

"It's perfect timing, right?" Jones said. "We have no other option. We control our own fate at this point. Teams are getting better and we've got to get better, as well, and we've got to win games. We've played well in stretches this year. It hasn't been as consistent as we'd like. So, it's great to see us playing period after period after period the right way."

Here's what we learned:


The Blue Jackets stayed two points ahead of the Florida Panthers for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, but that's wasn't their biggest gain from the victory.

Columbus (75 points) also moved within a point of the New Jersey Devils (76 points) for the first wild card and within four points of the Philadelphia Flyers (79 points) for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Seven of the eight teams in the Metro played Thursday, including the Devils and Flyers - who each lost, 3-2, in games that ended in regulation.

"As of late, we've been looking at who's behind us in the standings, but right now we should be looking at who's in front of us and trying to catch them," Werenski said. "We're playing good hockey right now, and I think we should just worry about climbing the standings and trying to get the best seed we can for the playoffs." 


Thomas Vanek didn't have a single point in his first four games wearing a Blue Jackets uniform, but the 34-year old forward showed in the second period why he's a veteran of 13 NHL seasons.

Vanek, acquired from the Vancouver Canucks before the NHL Trade Deadline passed on Feb. 26, scored his first two goals for Columbus to tie the game, 2-2 at 1:19 of the period. He made it 4-2 with 4:08 left and nearly scored a third near the end of the second, denied by Semyon Varlamov off a backhand deflection from the low slot.

Both of his goals were set up by Jones, who had a three-point game and collected his 32nd and 33rd assists of the season. Vanek's first goal was scored into a wide-open net off the pass from Jones and the second one snuck through the inside of Varlamov's right arm.

Prior to his first home game on Tuesday, Vanek joked about wanting to set the cannon off. He didn't do it that game, but heard the celebratory boom twice two days later.

"For me, it usually takes a good week, four or five or six games [with a new team]," he said. "I thought our line with [Alexander Wennberg] and Boone was really good. Every center's different. I'm trying to read [Wennberg] as much as I can on the ice. I'm trying to figure out his patterns when I enter the zone with the puck, when he enters it, what he likes to do. I think it's slowly getting better."

That's good news for the Blue Jackets, who've been searching for consistent, balanced forward lines all season. They might be getting close to those now, with the top two lines playing well and the veteran-backed fourth line acting as a "utility" unit able to handle mulltiple situations.

Getting some chemistry from Wennberg, Jenner and Vanek could really propel the offense. The Blue Jackets have scored four-or-more goals in three straight games for the first time this season and could really take off with a balanced forward group.

"I'm hoping 'Wenny' and Thomas can get a little work together and they can play off of one another," Tortorella said, prior to the game. "It's Wennberg's line that I'm hoping works, because then I don't have to rob from Peter to pay Paul to try to get a little balance within [the lines]."

Video: COL@CBJ: Vanek buries first goal with Blue Jackets


They only scored one power-play goal in the second, when Werenski made it 3-2 at 12:36 on his third goal in four games, but the Blue Jackets gained a lot of steam by going on the man-advantage four times in that period.

The Avalanche had penalties called on forward Gabriel Bourque for holding Brandon Dubinsky, defenseman Nikita Zadorov for hooking Oliver Bjorkstrand, defenseman Samuel Girard for interfering with Nick Foligno and forward Tyson Jost for tripping Jenner.

Those four penalties only led to one Columbus goal, but they helped change the entire momentum of the game that period. After Vanek tied it, 2-2, with an even-strength goal 1:19 after the puck dropped, Werenski scored with Girard in the penalty box for that 3-2 lead.

Vanek scored his second goal, again at even strength, less than three minutes later -- and Jost's penalty was called with just 17 seconds left in the period, giving the Blue Jackets 1:43 of carryover power-play time to start the third.

Video: COL@CBJ: Vanek buries second goal from in front


Following the Jackets' morning skate, Zach Werenski sat at his locker stall talking to a few media members.

The fact he'd scored goals in two of the previous three games was brought up, and the comment was made there "were a lot more in there" this season.

"I'd like to find it," Werenski replied.

Well, consider the stash found.

Werenski continued making up for lost time Thursday night with his goal in the second period. It was his second straight game with a goal, third goal in the past four games and 14th goal of the season, pushing his own franchise record for goals by a defenseman in one season up another notch.

It was another impressive outing for the second-year defenseman, who scored a second straight goal off a one-time slap shot that he's been practicing more lately.

"It's kind of a monkey-off-the-back type thing," Werenski said. "When you're cold, you're cold and when you're hot, you're hot. I'm starting to heat up at the right time, so hopefully I can keep this going here."

Video: COL@CBJ: Werenski hammers PPG past Varlamov 


Korpisalo started a second straight game for Sergei Bobrovsky, who was feeling healthy enough to participate in the morning skate and handle the backup duties.

Bobrovsky missed the game Tuesday against the Vegas Golden Knights while sick, which prompted the Blue Jackets to use an emergency recall to bring up Jeff Zatkoff as Korpisalo's backup. Zatkoff was reassigned to the Cleveland Monsters shortly before the game against Colorado, and it looks like Bobrovsky might get back in net Friday against the Detroit Red Wings.

"I was sick, so that's what it is pretty much," Bobrovsky said. "I can't control that, and it makes no sense to [be] frustrated about that. That means I have to take care of my health at that time and make sure that I'm ready to go when I have a chance."


Matt Calvert is getting used to having a newborn again, after the birth of his son, Beau, on Monday night.

Calvert and his wife, Courtney, had their first son, Kasey, two years ago. Calvert said Kasey prepared him for Beau, forcing him to have more patience.

"I wasn't blessed with patience or anything, the crying, the lost sleep … all that," Calvert said. "I think just dealing with those situations is what I learned from my first boy, and he's a pretty crazy boy, so I think he set the bar pretty high. So, if [Beau's] as energetic, I'll be ready. And if he's not, it'll almost seem like a breeze."

Beau's arrival kept his parents on their toes. He was born almost three weeks early, which beat the arrival of his grandparents, from Western Canada, by about a week.

"Our family is so far away, and they were expected to come next week," Calvert said. "We thought we had it planned out perfectly."

Instead, Courtney went into labor while the Blue Jackets were flying home from San Jose, Calif. Calvert found out while playing a game of cards on the plane.

"We had an hour and a half left on the flight," he said. "Obviously, I got off right away, after we landed, got there at [4 p.m.] and the baby arrived at 6:52 p.m. It was crazy how things happened. Normally, I'd get the full day experience of it. This was just, you get there and in a couple hours you've got a newborn."

"I don't like to say, because everyone thought Kasey looked like me, and actually now, most think he looks like my wife … which is probably a good thing."


The Blue Jackets will conclude their 16th of 17 back-to-backs this season when they host the Red Wings on Friday at Nationwide Arena (7 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go, 97.1 FM).

It will be the first time the teams have met since Columbus won, 2-1, in a nine-round shootout Nov. 11 at Little Caesar's Arena in Detroit. Jack Johnson decided that game with a great deke move in the ninth round to reward Bobrovsky for an outstanding performance in net.

The game wouldn't have gotten to a shootout without Bobrovsky's stunning right skate save in overtime to deny the Red Wings on a 2-on-0 breakaway. Detroit also played Thursday, hosting the Vegas Golden Knights, so both teams will have the same amount of rest.

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