All season long, the Blue Jackets have been defying expectations. Tonight was just one more opportunity to do that. The Jackets beat the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday, making them just the sixth team to win its first game after a bye week and giving Joonas Korpisalo his first NHL shut out.
"History in the league hasn't been too kind to teams coming off the bye week," Nick Foligno said. "(Tortorella) had a good talk with us before and said 'just go out and play.' Play hard and within our structure and make some plays. I think he allowed us to get our focus back."
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The Jackets came out of the gate hot and didn't let up for 60 minutes. Jack Johnson got the team on the board first with a heavy shot from the point. Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno followed suit, with Jenner scooping up a score off a Cam Atkinson rebound, and Foligno converting a pass from Alexander Wennberg that was expertly passed between Thomas Hickey's legs.
The first period ended with a 3-0 Jackets lead and signaled the completion of Islanders' Thomas Greiss night in net. Jean-Francois Berube played the final 40 minutes.
The second period was the Josh Anderson show. The 22-year-old capitalized on a feed from Boone Jenner to make it 4-0, and 13 minutes later, gained control of the puck after a neutral zone faceoff before placing a shot in the top left corner behind Berube to make it 5-0.
Foligno added a sixth goal before David Savard made it 7-0, earning the defenseman his first career three-point game (1-2-3).
"It's good for our confidence," Savard said. "(Tortorella) knew we might be rusty a little bit and there might be some mistakes during games after a break like that but whenever there was a breakdown somebody was putting their body on the line. Korpisalo made some huge saves early on, we got our confidence back and we saw some poise in the second and third as we got back to our game and stayed focused."
Here's what we learned.
Video: Torts reacts to the Blue Jackets' 7-0 win
Focus pays off.
So much was made of how any NHL team will perform coming off a bye week after most teams have not been able to earn even a point. The Blue Jackets' perspective was to keep it simple, and play within themselves and it worked out. Especially with a couple big early saves by Korpisalo.
"Our mindset was understanding that you can use all the excuses about a game like tonight but you have to find a way to get two points," Foligno said. "(Torts talked to us about) not focusing on all the things that could go wrong, he just said go out and play. He gave us that freedom and made everyone feel a little lighter out there. You could see the jump in everyone's step."
Video: Foligno on coming out strong from the bye week
Korpisalo was solid.
Joonas Korpisalo started his sixth game of the season for Columbus tonight and left with his first win and his first NHL career shutout. He stopped all 24 shots he faced and stood tall in front of an additional 20 attempts by the Islanders.
"Korpi made some great saves in the first period to give us a chance to get our legs under us," Tortorella said. "Goaltending was a very important part of our game."
While Korpisalo was quick to praise not just the defense but the offense in front of him tonight, he's also starting to feel more and more comfortable in his play regardless and that only bodes well for the Jackets as they head into the final stretch run of the season.
"In my first games I was going up and down (with my play) but still getting wins," Korpisalo said. "Now I think my game is getting better and more solid, and the level of my play doesn't go up and down and I feel a lot better."
Video: Korpisalo on his first NHL shutout
Depth allows a team to adapt.
The Jackets came into tonight's game knowing they would be without season regulars Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert. That led to head coach John Tortorella having reconfigure four forward lines that have been relatively stable throughout the year and incorporate the additions of Oliver Bjorkstrand and Markus Hannikainen from the Cleveland Monsters.
The changes paid off. Twelve Jackets got on the score sheet tonight and there wasn't one forward trio that didn't earn at least one point.
"(The injuries) forced me to change the lines and it really gave me some balance," John Tortorella said. "I thought all the lines played really well. It was nice to have the balance. Everybody contributed. It's a good win for our team."