For the Blue Jackets, Tuesday's 2-0 win over the New Jersey Devils wasn't just a repeat of opponents, it was a repeat of an excellent performance by Sergei Bobrovsky who earned his third consecutive shutout; he has now gone four games in regulation without allowing a goal.
John Tortorella has been talking about these kinds of games for a while. The number of games left to play dwindles, defenses dig in and tighten up, and goals are harder and harder to come by.
Early on, the Jackets (42-17-6) didn't help their cause offensively tonight. They were outshot by the Devils 33-25, and allowed 16 in the first period alone.
But Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has been sound in all areas of the ice since joining the club from Cleveland, added his fourth goal of the season to secure the victory. Cam Atkinson notched an empty net score to earn his 30th goal this year, a new career high for the 27-year-old Jacket.
"I'm really happy with the team," Tortorella said. "As ugly as we were, that's seven games in 11 nights after a break, in a situation where, with the break teams usually play some clunkers. That's as close as we've come to a clunker since the break and we found a way in the third period to generate enough energy and find a win. It's really encouraging as far as how they handled themselves".
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Video: Torts on another shutout win against the Devils
Three-peat for Bobrovsky.
To say Bob is dialed in right now is an understatement. He turned away all 33 shots he saw tonight and 91 total shots in the past three games he's played.
Bobrovsky is just the second goaltender in a Blue Jackets sweater who has earned three consecutive shutouts (Steve Mason Dec. 27-31, 2008).
Tonight, Tortorella praised not just how Bobrovsky stops the puck but when.
"The thing with Bob that's impressive," Tortorella said. "Is that I don't think we've given up a lot of chances during games, but there's been some really good chances we have had breakdowns and he's made some really good saves. The timing of his saves has been very important for us here."
Video: Gagner on his line staying hot
The Hartnell-Gagner-Bjorkstrand Line is clicking.
After tonight's game, Tortorella said that if a coach knows what he's doing when he puts a line together he's lying. But whatever led the Jackets head coach to bring together Scott Hartnell and Oliver Bjorkstrand centered by Sam Gagner was definitely a good line of thought.
"Sam has made some really good plays offensively," Tortorella said. "Hartnell has chased some pucks down. It seems to work right now. It's a couple games in a row now they score a big goal (last game) they're the best line in Jersey and they score a huge goal tonight."
Bjorkstrand and Brandon Saad had been bouncing back and forth between two set lines, but tonight after a little movement, Tortorella decided to settle things down and keep them as designed, and it worked. In two games against New Jersey, the line has accounted for three goals, including tonight's game winner.
And about that goal.
Bjorkstrand continues to demonstrate his skill to dazzling effect, it's even drawing the attention of Bobrovsky.
"He's been great he's got a really good shot," Bobrovsky said. "It's so hard to stop that shot. He's got a quick release and it's great timing with the shot too. He's always a little bit ahead of the game. He reads the game well. He's definitely a big sniper and he got a big future."
Video: Bjorkstrand on continuing to produce in the NHL
"Just one good period."
The first two periods weren't anything to write home about for the Jackets. The pace of the game wasn't there for the home team, and they were outshot and out attempted by a Devils team that had only put up 20 shots against them two days before.
"I thought we really struggled executing the puck, we were tired," Tortorella said. "When you have so many guys fighting it as far as making plays, you could see we were late in making plays.
"I'm not going to take anything away from Jersey, they had really good sticks tonight. We just weren't sharp but during intermission we said let's play one period here, let's just try to win one period."
Both Jackets goals came in the third period and it was the only period they outshot their opponent.
"Come playoff time you have to find ways to win a lot of different ways and that's the good thing about our team," Sam Gagner said. "We can grind out wins, we can play with skill and we can play with patience like we showed tonight."