It felt like the Blue Jackets had wings Tuesday night in a 3-0 victory against the Washington Capitals at Nationwide Arena.
Columbus might have played its best game of the season in dominating a division foe, and the only thing that kept it from truly being a blowout was an excellent performance by Caps goalie Braden Holtby and a couple chances the Jackets sent wide.
Otherwise, it was mostly one-way sledding. Columbus dominated the first 56 minutes of the game in building a 2-0 lead behind goals from Anthony Duclair and Nick Foligno. Washington pushed in the last four, most of which was spent with the net empty, and Sergei Bobrovsky had to take some sterling saves in the final four minutes to preserve his third shutout of the year.
On balance, though, the night belonged to the Blue Jackets. Here are three thoughts from the victory.
It's A Gas: Blue Jackets players had just finished a Monday morning workout and were about a half hour from hitting the ice for practice when the word came: Nationwide Arena must be evacuated because of a gas leak in the building's vicinity.
There would be no practice, and what head coach John Tortorella termed a "gas day" felt more like a snow day to the Blue Jackets players, who fled from Nationwide Arena with smiles on their faces.
Video: Torts says he wanted to make a point after the trip
The day off proved to come at a pivotal time. The Blue Jackets finished three games in five days out West with a 4-3 victory against Vegas on Saturday night, and that was followed by an 8 a.m. Vegas time flight home the next morning. There was to be no rest for the weary until it was provided by the gas leak.
Couple that with the Caps having played Monday night at home vs. Los Angeles and it was clear the Blue Jackets had the energy advantage from the very beginning.
"You could really see -- it's easy for me to say now because we did play well, but our morning skate was full of energy and crisp," Tortorella said. "The biggest thing to me is how much energy we played with. It makes me wonder, I've always thought about coming off of being out west, do you give them both days (off)? Usually you have a couple of days before you play. I've always thought maybe I should give them the two days and then a morning skate. …
"Coaches, we just screw it up. We overthink it. It's something I need to think about when we get back to that if we have another situation like that -- and I'm sure they're going to remind me."
Getting Greedy: Winning all three games on the trip to Colorado, Arizona and Vegas couldn't have come at a better time as the Blue Jackets flew west on a five-game losing skid.
But to Tortorella, following up the road trip with another win was imperative.
"I just want our road trip to stand," he said. "I think that's the most important thing is when you win three on the road, your first game home, make those three games stand. Don't trade off of it."
On the standings front, the win was especially important given the opponents this week. The Caps entered in second place ahead of Columbus in the Metro while the New York Islanders will come to town Thursday in first place.
If the Jackets had lost to the Caps on Tuesday night, the good vibes of the road trip would have been pushed aside, and Columbus would have been left seven points adrift of New York and six of Washington. Instead, the Blue Jackets are now two behind the Caps for second and five behind New York for first.
The team answered the call with a dominating showing. According to Natural Stat Trick, in 5-on-5 play, Columbus held a 23-9 edge in scoring chances and a 9-0 advantage in high danger chances. The Jackets also had four power plays to Washington's one, and the Caps were well into the third period before hitting 10 shots on goal.
"That's a huge win," forward Cam Atkinson said. "We just played the right way."
Follow the Leaders: Tortorella appeared to enter with a plan -- match up the team's gritty line of Foligno, Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson against the Caps' top line of NHL leading goal scorer Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson.
It didn't always work out that way -- the Caps' top line saw plenty of the Jackets' top line as well -- but the 71/77/38 line did its part all night against Ovechkin and the Capitals.
When the night was over, their mission had been accomplished. According to Natural Stat Trick, at 5-on-5, scoring chances were 12-0 in favor of the Jackets when Anderson was on the ice, 10-3 for Jenner and 10-2 for Foligno.
The night was capped when Foligno got an insurance marker in the final four minutes, finishing a nifty give-and-go with Seth Jones by ripping a shot by Holtby to make it 2-0.
Video: WSH@CBJ: Foligno nets insurance marker on give-and-go
"They played a lot of minutes against their top line," Tortorella said. "(Nick's goal) is a big goal because … I know the coaches think it and I know the players are thinking it, it's 1-0 and we're banging away and give them squat, and just one shot -- they can go bang, bang and score a couple. You have to be thinking about that a little bit."
Anderson also had a noteworthy night, missing the final 11:32 of the opening period after running into Wilson along the wall. Anderson took some time to get up, at first spending time on all fours, before skating off and walking to the training room.
Afterward, the power forward said he essentially had the wind knocked out of him by what both he and his coach called a clean hit.
"It was more my stomach, and then I had to really just calm down, come to the room and relax a bit," he said. "I wanted to go out there and still play hard. It kind of felt like I had the flu there because your muscles are tensing up and everything like that, but it worked out."