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Labatt Blue What We Learned: CBJ 2, DAL 1

Despite falling behind, the Blue Jackets bounced back and outlasted the Stars in a game dominated by defense

by Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

DALLAS - They played smarter, concentrated on defensive structure and, in the process Tuesday night at American Airlines Center, the Blue Jackets unfurled a blueprint for getting through the next month without four injured regulars.

It involves tight checking, taking less risks offensively, getting timely goals and leaning on Bobrovsky, who made 21 saves for his 200th NHL victory, leading the Jackets to a 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars.

Oliver Bjorkstrand scored the only goals for Columbus (23-15-3), which ended a three-game winless skid to start a two-game road trip that will conclude Thursday in Colorado.

"I felt like today, I just had to focus on my job and trust my partners, that they will take care about the rest," Bobrovsky said. "That's the good feeling, that you can focus on your things and trust the guy next to you, that he's going to do the same. It's a good feeling, and it's great to have the result."

The process in getting that result wasn't always pretty to watch, with each team playing conservatively, but it was effective for the Blue Jackets. They'd allowed 14 goals in their previous three games and held their longest practice of the season Monday before flying to Dallas.

The focus of that practice was re-establishing their defensive structure and finding some semblance of stabilization. Despite falling behind, 1-0, less than a minute into the third period, they found it in this game.

They also bounced back from that deficit, their previous two games, and out-grinded the Stars to the final horn.

"As I said the other night, when [bobrovsky] wasn't dead-on in Ottawa, I wish our team would've picked him up a little bit," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "I thought they played really well in front of him tonight. If we can get that, scratching and clawing and just trying to limit the scoring chances against us - and just be patient offensively - it gives us an opportunity to win some hockey games. We've got to go about it this way."

Here are six things we learned:

Video: CBJ@DAL: Bjorkstrand beats Bishop to tie game in 3rd

FIRST RESPONDERS: THE THIRD LINE

After falling behind, 1-0, on a goal by Stars forward Devin Shore 44 seconds into the third period, the Blue Jackets' third line came to the rescue, producing the game's next two goals - both scored by Bjorkstrand.

On the first one, Matt Calvert got a piece of a shot in the defensive zone and simply flipped the puck toward the Stars' blue line. It went just over Dallas defenseman Stephen Johns' head, as Bjorkstrand slipped past him to get to it.

Bjorkstrand then beat goalie Ben Bishop clean to the far side at 4:54 to tie it, 1-1, on his seventh goal of the season. He then put Columbus up, 2-1, on the next shift for his line, 1:18 later. Bjorkstrand fired a laser from the right wing that zipped over goalie Ben Bishop's shoulder and under the crossbar.

"He's a big goalie, so there's not a lot of open spots," Bjorkstrand said. "I tried to pick a corner, and I was happy I picked the right one that time. It was huge. Every time a team scores a goal on you, it's always nice to come right back. I was happy that we tied it up and then quickly got the lead after."

Two big goals from a line featuring Calvert and center Lukas Sedlak, who are known more for their grinding two-way games. Calvert finished with one assist, while Sedlak assisted on both goals.

Tortorella was happy to see the puck go in for Bjorkstrand, who hadn't scored in the previous nine games.

"He's just been a little stale as far as getting into open ice," Tortorella said. "I think he's been a little deliberate on the power-play also, and that hasn't given him many chances with the puck. I'm glad for him, and he's an important guy for us with the [injured] guys out. If we can get him going, also, offensively along with his checking, it will be a big plus for us."

Video: CBJ@DAL: Bjorkstrand goes top shelf for second goal

II: DAVID SAVARD IS TOUGHER THAN YOU

He thought it was going to be a pass.

Instead, Stars forward Jason Spezza shot the puck on a 2-on-1 situation late in the second period and Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard felt the sting of the puck bounce off the back of his head.

It was a hard-earned blocked shot, which left a gash that needed to be stitched shut. It likely saved a goal, too, as Bobrovsky later told Savard that he didn't see the puck off Spezza's stick.

"I thought he was going to pass it, and I was just trying to take up as much space as possible," said Savard, who needed six stitches to close the cut near his left ear. "Obviously, it's not the best-case scenario, but we got the win, so it's good. [Bobrovsky] said he didn't see the puck, too, when he shot it, so it turned out good that it hit me. Obviously, it wasn't the best spot, but it is what it is."

After the puck hit him, with 7:08 left in the period, Savard immediately skated to the bench without his stick. He was hunched over in pain, and then left the bench with 6:44 left, returning to the locker room for treatment. Savard missed the remainder of the period, but returned in the third and finished the game.

"Savvy's that way," Tortorella said. "He gives up his body all the time, one of our best shot-blockers. He wasn't too interested, I'm sure, to get hit in the head … but it's a big play."

III: 'BOB' BOUNCES BACK

Sergei Bobrovsky hadn't sharp, consistently, the past month. In this game, the Blue Jackets' top goalie was in top form throughout.

The defensive effort in front of him was strong, as well, but Bobrovsky made a number of key saves to either keep the game scoreless or keep Columbus within striking distance after Shore scored to start the third.

That goal was tipped by Shore, off a wrist shot from the slot by defenseman John Klingberg, and trickled into the net. Bobrovsky initially got a piece of it, but couldn't stop it from sliding over the goal line. It didn't affect him or the Jackets.

"I thought guys were solid today," Bobrovsky said. "They played strong. They were back-checking hard. It was perfect timing for the good sticks. I thought we [played] like one fist, as a team, as one unit and I felt it."

Bobrovsky made 15 saves in the final 40 minutes, including a big one to stop a slap shot by Johns with his blocker just 14 seconds before Bjorkstrand's first goal.

"Our whole team played good defensively, and when we let up a little bit 'Bob' obviously made the saves," Bjorkstrand said. "We can build on that."

Video: CBJ@DAL: Bobrovsky extends pad to deny deflection

IV: SMARTER IS BETTER

The Blue Jackets went into this game looking to tweak their approach, in lieu of the injury situation with four guys on injured reserve.

A day after Tortorella pulled the "Safe Is Death" sign off the locker room wall at Nationwide Arena, the Jackets wanted to play "smarter," rather than safer. They accomplished that goal by limiting the Stars' shot attempts, shots on goal and puck possession most of the game.

The score was 0-0 after 40 minutes, but Columbus was largely in control. They just didn't have anything to show for it until Bjorkstrand broke through against Bishop.

His two goals were a reward, though, for Columbus regaining its defensive structure against the Stars, who came into the game 6-2-2 in their past 10 games and 14-4-1 at American Airlines Center this season.

"We played a really good checking game, and we didn't get them too much ice to play on," Sedlak said. "It's a good team effort, I think."

V: JACKETS DIDN'T FOLD

In Pittsburgh last week, the Blue Jackets couldn't protect a 4-2 lead in the third period and lost, 5-4, in a shootout. The following game, in Ottawa, they coughed up a 3-1 lead in the second period and lost 5-4 in regulation.

Then, on New Year's Eve at Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets couldn't stop the Tampa Bay Lightning from scoring four straight goals to start the second period - paving the way to their 5-0 win.

Columbus could've had another stumble Tuesday, after allowing the Stars to take a 1-0 lead just 44 seconds into the third period. It didn't happen, as the Jackets responded with the goals by Bjorkstrand.

It was the kind of bounceback effort they needed to restore a measure of confidence.

"It's never good to give up goals, so it's good that it was a close game and we found a way to win a tight game like that," Bjorkstrand said. "That's a positive thing that we can build on."

VI: BLOCK PARTY

Aside from making smarter choices about when to have defensemen join the offensive attack, another key component to the Blue Jackets getting through this stretch without key players will be blocking shots.

They came up with a great effort sacrificing their bodies against the Stars, particularly in the third period. Columbus only had six blocked shots through the first two periods, including Savard's block with his head in the second, but finished the game with 17 blocks - four more than Dallas.

They blocked 11 shots in the third period, when the Stars were pushing hard for a tying goal.

"Every part of the game we've got to be better," Savard said. "If we can block more shots, it's less scoring chances for them, and I think it brings the team together too, every time we have a big block from guys up front, off big one-timers. It's always good for our team."

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