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Labatt Blue What We Learned: CBJ 4, WSH 3 (OT)

Panarin seals OT win as CBJ take Game 1

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. - They fell behind, 2-0, after one period and things didn't look great.

The Blue Jackets had lost power forward Josh Anderson to a game misconduct on a boarding major late in the first period, and the Washington Capitals took full advantage - getting two power-play goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov with more than two minutes left on the same man-advantage to start the second.

It was shaping up like the previous three times the Blue Jackets had ever opened a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all ending in losses, but this time Columbus changed the ending to the movie. Rather than crumbling, the Blue Jackets fought back.

They tied it, 2-2, early in the third on a goal in the second period by Alexander Wennberg and another in the third by Thomas Vanek, who finished with a goal and assists. They fell behind again, 3-2 on a goal by Devante Smith-Pelly, but fought back again late in the third to tie it, 3-3, on the first postseason goal of Seth Jones' NHL career.

Then, the Jackets won this game, 4-3, in overtime, off the flick of the stick by Artemi Panarin, the superstar left wing they got from the Chicago Blackhawks in a blockbuster trade last June.

His incredible, high-skill goal off a solo rush up the left wing ended Game 1 of this Eastern Conference First-Round series at 6:02 of overtime, giving Columbus its first lead of the game and first lead in a playoff series period.

"They'd score, we'd answer … they'd score, we'd answer," said Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, who was hit in the face off a slap shot early in the third period but still returned to finish the game. "That's a huge character win in Game 1."

VISIT THE BLUE JACKETS STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB

That's also an extension of what this team did the last six weeks during the regular season, when Columbus fought tooth-and-nail just to get into these playoffs, overcoming big deficits in games to either win or earn a point in overtime.

There's no panic left in this team, from its goaltenders to the defense to the forwards to the coaching staff to the suits watching high above on the suite level. That's what brought them back in this game and what should make them one tough out in this postseason.

A lot of stuff happened in this game, but in the end, the Blue Jackets had one more goal than the Capitals and you could sense just how important that was in every word that was spoken un their locker room afterward.

"In the playoffs, you find a little bit of extra energy," said Vanek, one of the Jackets' three key additions prior to the NHL Trade Deadline in late February. "I think that tonight was one of those games where we talked to each other, we pumped each other up, we felt good and it never felt like we were going to lose this one."

Video: Tortorella on Panarin's game-winning goal and more

Here's what we learned:

I: WHAT IT MEANS

The Blue Jackets won their first game of the playoffs for the first time, after falling behind 1-0 in the first round in 2009 against the Detroit Red Wings, 2014 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and again last season against the Penguins.

Columbus fell behind 2-0 in 2009 and was swept by Detroit and again lost the second game last season, losing to Pittsburgh in five games.

Getting off to a win allows the Jackets to play Game 2 on Sunday with "house money," so to speak, knowing they won't be going back to Nationwide Arena down two games and forcing the Capitals to win in order to avoid a 2-0 series deficit with their Games 3 and 4 in Columbus.

II: SUPER SETH

The sequence leading up to Jones' game-tying goal was something to remember.

First, Jones was tripped by Andre Burakovsky while curling around the Jackets' net to the outside of the right post. Bobrovsky skated off for the extra attacker, leaving net vacant.

Jones got up, got the puck at the Columbus blue line and thought rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois was behind him. He threw the puck back toward the Jackets' empty net and then looked back to see it nearly cross the goal line. Dubois swooped over just in time to scoop the puck in the blue paint and carry it up the ice.

"It was going pretty slow, so I knew I had time," Dubois said. "It just something that happens. We wanted to keep the puck and kind of a miscommunication. I thought I was going to get wide and he thought I was going to come closer, but something like that happens."

Moments later, less than a minute after the power play began, Jones scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal to tie the game, 3-3, eventually sending it to OT.

"We get that goal, 'Jonesy's goal, I think he's been the driving force of our power play recently," Dubois said. "He's playing really well and 'Bread' [Panarin] made another nice pass, and [Cam Atkinson] had an amazing play to keep it in [the zone], so it was three guys and three key elements of our power play. That was a really big goal for us."

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm1: Jones buries PPG to tie the game late

III: PENALTY PROBLEMS

The Blue Jackets finished the regular season third overall in the NHL in penalty minutes, averaging just 6.9 minutes per game. After two periods against the Capitals on Thursday, including Anderson's 10-minute game misconduct, they'd already been penalized 21 minutes - or 3.7 percent of their season total.

Thanks to a solid PK effort, though, Anderson's five-minute major for boarding was the most damaging - resulting in both of Kuznetsov's goals in the first.

Otherwise, the Jackets killed off the other three, including Panarin's hooking infraction with 3:51 left in the second period and Columbus trailing 2-1.

IV: ANOTHER ONE?

Last year, it was defenseman Zach Werenski who was struck in the face by a shot, just under his right eye, during the Blue Jackets' first-round series against the Penguins.

This year, it was captain Nick Foligno, who was struck in the face off a slap shot by Capitals defenseman Jakub Jerabek 1:40 into the third. Foligno, playing his first game since a lower-body injury sidelined him for the last six games of the regular season, immediately began bleeding and dropped to the ice.

He was attended to while down but got up and skated off on his own power - heading straight to the locker room. He returned to the game a few minutes later and finished the game, sporting a welt under his left eye.

"They just wanted to make sure I didn't have anything serious going on," Foligno said afterward, with a cut under his eye and red marks stretching from his nose to his left cheek. "Once they said I was 'OK,' it was like, 'Hurry up and get the blood off me and let's go.' I was just happy I could get back out there because we were shorthanded [on forwards]."

Foligno said the puck hit his visor and cracked it, and either the visor or puck - or both - hit his face.

"It sounds like that's just the way it works around here," Foligno said. "I'm just glad it wasn't anything too, too serious. I've got a nice headache right now. I was scared, yeah. I just knew the visor cracked, so I just wanted to know how my face was. But you're just worried about your eye first. I think it was just both. It broke the visor into my face."

V: 'VAN JENNBERGS' STRIKE AGAIN

Tortorella said he decided to put Boone Jenner, Wennberg and Thomas Vanek together basically by necessity, because they were the three guys with top-six talent who were left after he'd come up with a top six.

Regardless of the reason, the trio worked really well through the bulk of the stretch run in the regular season. They also made an impact in Game 1, with Wennberg scoring the Jackets' first goal, in the second period, off a great feed by Jenner - who got the puck after it hit Vanek's dropped stick in the neutral zone.

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm1: Wennberg chips home Jenner's dish

In the third, Vanek tied it while filling in for Wennberg on the power play that followed Tom Wilson's charging minor that knocked Wennberg out of the game with an upper-body injury.

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm1: Vanek knots score with deflection PPG

VI: NICK OF TIME

Prior to being struck by the puck, Foligno had a noteworthy play late in the second period. Some in the pressbox were calling it the "Reverse Crosby," because he batted a puck bound for the net out of mid-air and out of danger to prevent a goal.

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (27 saves) got a piece of Alex Chiasson's uncontested wrist shot from the low slot with his left arm, but the puck deflected into the air behind him. It appeared headed for the net, but Foligno tracked it with his stick and batted it away.

"[Bobrovsky] bailed me out," Foligno said. "That was actually my guy. So, the least I could do was bat it out. It's part of the game. If he bails us out, we can bail him out. It was nice not to see that one not go in."

Columbus Dispatch photographer Kyle Robertson got a great still frame shot of it, with the puck just about to hit Foligno's stick and Bobrovsky's eyes looking back at it. Robertson, whose Twitter handle is @KRobPhoto tweeted the photo out shortly before the second intermission.

"Honestly, I practice it so much from just playing around with the puck that you just get used to it, playing so many years," Foligno said. "Obviously a little bit of luck to make sure you get it out and not hit somewhere else, it worked out."

VII: NO FRIENDS ON THE ICE

There are five Russian players in this series, three for the Capitals and two for the Blue Jackets. Each one of them has some interconnection to at least one or two of the others, but all five have one thing in common.

Each says there is no such thing as friends on the ice, when competing against each other. There was no better example than with 5:05 left in the third period, when Artemi Panarin and Kuznetsov came out of the corner after a puck battle.

Kuznetsov slashed Panarin in the chest, which the Blue Jackets' left wing didn't appreciate. Panarin got right up into Kuznetsov's face, before the Capitals' star center headed off to the penalty box.

Panarin and Kuznetsov have known each other for years, since they were young children learning the sport at a hockey school in Chelyabinsk, Russia - the city where Kuznetsov grew up, about 30 miles away from Panarin's hometown of Korkino.

VIII: SHORT-STAFFED

Anderson's misconduct penalty meant the Blue Jackets had to play two-plus periods with just 11 forwards. That was bad enough.

Then Wennberg was injured on the hit by Wilson, in which the Capitals' forward made contact with the side of his helmet. Wennberg left the game and didn't return, putting Columbus down two forwards.

Foligno then got hit in the face shortly after Vanek's power-play goal tied it, 2-2, at 1:31 of the third, putting Columbus down three forwards until Foligno returned about four minutes later. That caused kind of a mad scramble on the bench, mixing and matching forwards as the Jackets rolled with just three lines.

"We feel we're really deep," Foligno said. "Guys can play up and down the lineup and we tested that tonight, first game. We didn't want to, but unfortunate things that [went] on in the game and then we found a way to get a win, which was a huge win for our team in a playoff series that you know you need to get off on the right foot."

Video: Foligno talks about the collective team effort

IX: NEXT UP

The Blue Jackets and Capitals will play Game 2 of the series Sunday at Capital One Center (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go, 97.1 FM).

Video: First Round, Gm1: Blue Jackets @ Capitals

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