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Labatt Blue What We Learned: CBJ 2, WPG 1

Josh Anderson OT goal ends Blue Jackets' homestand with a win

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

Josh Anderson's commemoration of Hockey Fights Cancer Night didn't end when he pulled off the Blue Jackets' special lavender and white jerseys they wore during warmups.

During the second intermission of the Jackets' 2-1 overtime victory Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets at Nationwide Arena, Anderson thought of his grandfather in Oakville, Ont., who's battled colon cancer for seven years.

"I said to myself before the third period that it'd be nice to get one for him," said Anderson, who scooped the puck in the Jets zone and wheeled to fire home the game-winner at 2:38, giving the Jackets a win and a franchise record of 14 points after 10 games. "I was just thinking about him, and getting the goal for him tonight. It was really special."

It was also the capper to another one of those victories that didn't go exactly as the Blue Jackets planned. This game wasn't a thing of beauty, but it doesn't have to be when the result is a victory.

"There was no yelling, [and] no panic," coach John Tortorella said. "We've got to get through these situations. We've got to learn. Last year, we didn't have much experience at it. We did as the year went on. Now, we're beginning to understand that. Do you want to write these games up this way? No, but it's the National Hockey League. You don't know what's going to happen each and every night."

The Blue Jackets (7-3-0) are learning that NHL truism often in the early-going this season, after learning those same lessons during a franchise-record 16-game winning streak last season, the second longest in NHL history.

All that matters is scoring more goals, and Columbus is finding ways to be that team again.

This time, they won despite a poor start. They won despite falling behind 1-0 early, taking six penalties that all led to power plays - a season-high in penalty kills for Columbus - and they won despite a defensive breakdown in overtime that led to Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler getting the puck in front of Sergei Bobrovsky.

His dazzling, diving glove save kept the game going for the Blue Jackets, tied 1-1, just as he'd done with a tremendous pad save to deny Mark Scheifele of a goal late in the third.

"Quite honestly, it was one of those games where neither team looked really good," Tortorella said. "There were a lot of penalties and just no flow. I don't think we gave them much, but when we did give them some, 'Bob' made some key saves."

Bobrovsky made 29 saves, to be exact.

The only one he missed just slipped between his pads and came to a halt in the blue paint behind him, waiting for Jets forward Brandon Tanev to tap it in 4:52 into the game.

Winnipeg, which also lost 2-1 in overtime Thursday in Pittsburgh, had a 1-0 lead and a lot of steam.

After that, though - as Tortorella mentioned - it turned into game that resembled a special-teams practice.

There were 10 power plays in all, and the Jets (4-3-2) got six. The Jackets killed off all six, and pushed their mark to a perfect 16-for-16 on home ice this season - a franchise record streak.

The flip side was the 0-for-4 the Jackets took on their own man-advantages, including three in the second period. It was just one of those games, for both teams, and the Jackets found a way to win.

Cam Atkinson found a way to whack home the game-tying goal at 10:23 of the third, after defenseman Seth Jones found a way to hold the puck in the Jets' zone and send it toward the net.

Bobrovsky found a way to snag Wheeler's point-blank shot in overtime, and Anderson found a way to score that goal for his grandpa, Gary Graham.

"[Tortorella] came in here after the second intermission and said 'It brings me back to last year, finding ways to win,' when we went on that streak," Anderson said. "It might not be pretty, but today, again, we found a way to win it in the third period - tie it up there with Cam's big goal, and then in overtime we got it done."

Some of it was due to good fortune, with the puck landing right near Atkinson's stick after Jones' shot was blocked. Atkinson, however, had some bad luck in this game, too - falling to the ice in the second period to negate a potential breakaway.

Regardless, luck is only good if you capitalize on it.

Atkinson did, scoring for the first time in three games, and the Jackets had their second win in a row - splitting the first of two season-high four-game homestands.

"If it's luck, I'll take it," he said. "I feel like I was all over the puck tonight, and putting myself in opportunities to score, if not create rebounds for my linemates. It's nice to finally cash one in at a crucial time."

It's nice, too, to have confidence that things will just work out in games like this - something Columbus has stockpiled in bunches since last season.

It was another slow start, and this might've been the slowest of the bunch, but it didn't cost them the game.

The Jets dominated early. They outskated the Blue Jackets in the first period, scored a goal, drew three penalties and held an 11-2 margin in shots through the first 10 minutes.

None of it mattered. Columbus got a spark out of all those penalty kills and proceeded to control things the rest of the way. The Blue Jackets found a way to win, and that's a very good sign for a young team with big goals.

"We talked about it between periods," Tortorella said. "These are the games we won last year. It's not about how you play for 40 or 50 minutes. Let's find a way to win a game when it's there, when you're still involved in it, and I'm thrilled about the win. Do we have some things to work on? Yeah. Are a number of guys struggling? Yeah. I am thrilled we win this type of hockey game."

A grandfather back in Oakville, Ont., who continues his fight against cancer, probably was too.

News and Notes

SPECIAL NIGHT: As part of Hockey Fights Cancer Night, the Blue Jackets wore special lavender uniforms during pregame warmups, which were auctioned and raffled off to benefit the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation's efforts to combat pediatric cancer.

The Blue Jackets also honored six members of the "Hats for Heroes" program prior to the national anthem, which was sung by Leo Welsh - who also wore a lavender jersey.

Standing next to Welsh were: Hunter Hartman, age 7, Hunter Tigner, age 16, Taylor Leach, age 5 and Karstyn Milne, age 5. Watching from Nationwide Children's Hospital, and shown on the scoreboard, were: Will Mckee, age 8 and Hailey Vonville, age 14.

All were given an ovation by the crowd of 14,224.

Wearing the lavender jerseys wasn't only special for Anderson. Several Blue Jackets' lives have been directly impacted by cancer, including captain Nick Foligno and center Zac Dalpe - who each lost their mothers to different forms of the disease.

Another moment that drew a cheer happened in the third period, when longtime Fox Sports Ohio TV analyst Bill Davidge shared with fans over the video board what he'd been told by his doctor Friday, that his cancer was in complete remission. Davidge, who's in his 17th season as a Blue Jackets broadcaster, was diagnosed in 2014 with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma."

SEND IT HOME, BIG FELLA: Anderson's play is earning him more ice time and some important roles, including a spot on the power-play. He's also gone from the third line to shifting with skilled offensive guys like Artemi Panarin and Foligno. His goal was the third of the season for the 6-foot-3, 221-pound power forward, who has five points (three goals, two assists) in the past six games and scored the first overtime goal of his NHL career.

The reason he was even in position to score it was because he earned enough confidence to get on the ice during 3-on-3 play.

"It's part of the process," Tortorella said. "Just wait your turn. Go about your business, try and improve your game and you're going to get your opportunities. We try to be fair. I think we've been fair with Josh. Little by little, he's been getting more. [We] used him killing penalties tonight, because we killed so many. His game is coming."

STONE-COLD (PENALTY) KILLERS: The Blue Jackets' penalty kill deserves special mention, especially when they're short-handed on home ice. They're perfect at Nationwide Arena through the first six home games, and Tortorella thinks it's primarily because of how well the two units work together.

"I think we've done a really good job on [zone] entries, just having them not come in smoothly and breaking some plays up," he said. "[Assistant Brad Shaw's] done a great job with the whole group on when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive, and just working in cohesion. Huge night. That first period, the way we started, I thought it gave us some energy.":

HE SAID IT: "Bread lost his guy. Bread was tired, had no clue what he was doing, lost his guy. That's what happened." - Tortorella, on a defensive breakdown by Panarin in overtime that led to Bobrovsky's save against Wheeler

ADDITIONAL NOTES: The victory was the Blue Jacket's first against Winnipeg at Nationwide Arena since Nov. 12, 2011, after going 0-4-0 against the Jets at home the previous four contests. … Columbus swept the season series against the Jets for the first time since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg and first time overall since 2008-09, when the organization was the Atlanta Thrashers. … The Jackets' previous best point total through the first 10 games was 13 in 2007-08, when they started 6-3-1. … According to the NHL, Columbus' seven wins are a new franchise mark for victories in the month of October.


(All times ET)

Jets: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (7 p.m., NHLN-US, SN, TVA Sports, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV)

Blue Jackets: At the St. Louis Blues on Saturday (8 p.m., FS-O, Fox Sports Go, FS-MW, NHL.TV)

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