The Blue Jackets have shown this year that they are a team that can gain the advantage on an opponent through their hard work or through their skill. Tonight, goals of each kind, coupled with exceptional goaltending, gave the Jackets (41-17-6) a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped all 20 shots he faced for the team's sixth shutout of the season. It is the first time in franchise history that the Jackets have shutout the Devils and the first time in Bobrovsky's career he's posted back-to-back shutouts.
The first period was a sleepy one, but in the second, Cam Atkinson fired a shot from the bottom of the right circle into a crowd in front of the net. Boone Jenner was able to get his stick on it and tap the puck past Corey Schneider to make it 1-0. Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky earned the assists on the goal giving Dubinsky 400 points in his NHL career (138-262-400).
Just under three minutes later, Oliver Bjorkstrand earned the team the 2-0 lead. Sam Gagner added a third goal halfway through the third period to make it 3-0 off the rebound of a Scott Hartnell shot. It was Gagner's second goal in as many games.
"We played within our structure," head coach John Tortorella said. "That's a back-to-back game by both teams there. It was slogging around but I liked our structure. That's the most important thing in those types of game is making sure you're playing well away from the puck, and keeping it as simple as you can."
Josh Anderson left the game in the second with a lower body injury and did not return.
Here's what we learned.
GUARANTEE YOUR PLAYOFF TICKETS
Video: CBJ@NJD: Bobrovsky turns aside Stollery's point shot
Bob is the backbone.
Once again, it is Sergei Bobrovsky who's one of the major reasons for a Jackets victory. And it's no wonder that with tonight's success, he set franchise records for wins by a goaltender (34) and personal records with his first career back-to-back shutouts. It was the fifth time this season Bobrovsky has kept every puck out of the net.
Bobrovsky has allowed just one goal in his last three starts and that came in overtime against Montreal.
It's said over and over again, but that's because it's true; this is the time of year that your best players need to be your best players and Bobrovsky is answering the call in a definitive way.
"He's got our back no matter what," Jenner said. "You can see it right now, he's on top of his game like he usually is. He made some great saves to keep us in it, especially early on in the first when we weren't generating too much. He got the shut out which is great for him."
Video: CBJ@NJD: Bjorkstrand stays patient, buries snap shot
Bjorkstrand is on the move.
We saw Oliver Bjorkstrand in some different places in the lineup tonight. Tortorella put him with Sam Gagner and Scott Hartnell for 5-on-5 play, and then we saw the 21-year-old on the first power play unit playing in the middle of the offensive zone.
The moves seemed to ignite Bjorkstrand (3-4-7) and his line, which is what Tortorella hoped. Bjorkstrand scored and then provided the primary assist to linemate Gagner on the final goal of the night.
Bjorkstrand's goal was just another opportunity to take in the Dane's skill. He skated through the high slot, patiently assessed his options, and fired a shot from the top of the right circle while on one foot to give the Jackets the 2-0 lead.
"I saw a little ice there and I had time so I found a way to get a shot on net," Bjorkstrand said. "It was a nice feeling. It helps with the ice time I get, I just need to keep going like that and I feel more confident every game."
Video: CBJ@NJD: Gagner crashes the net, buries a rebound
Sometimes, penalties are ok.
The Jackets were already on the penalty kill early in the first period when Kyle Palmieri got the puck on his stick and was skating towards the net with a clear path to the goal. Kyle Quincey, playing against his former team for the first time, hooked Palmieri to save the goal against.
The Jackets went on to face nine seconds of 5-on-3 play and then an additional 1:51 of being on the penalty kill, but they survived and allowed just three shots against total during the time they were a man down.
"It was a great penalty," Tortorella said. "Those are the ones you kill off. It was ugly but (Quincey) got the job done because it's in the net if he doesn't do it."