The Blue Jackets, after eight unsuccessful attempts, picked up their first victory of the season tonight in Denver with an effort that looked a lot like many of their wins from the past two seasons: a collective, concerted team effort and timely saves from Sergei Bobrovsky.
It began slightly ominously with a Jack Skille snipe only 2:21 in, a top-shelf shot that Columbus fans have seen a few times before.
But like they did Thursday night in Minnesota, the Blue Jackets didn’t slump their shoulders or plod through the next few minutes. They bounced right back up and went to work, again taking a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Boone Jenner scored his first of two goals on a 2-on-1 rush that he created himself, beating Semyon Varlamov through the pads at 10:04 to tie the game 1-1. Jenner then gave Columbus a 2-1 lead with 4:04 left in the period, re-directing a David Savard point shot into the net with the Jackets operating on the power play.
This game had many moments that felt like Thursday’s game, but the Blue Jackets were determined to author a different outcome. Due to some defensive miscues and penalty trouble, the Avalanche scored twice unanswered in the second period (Jarome Iginla and then Nathan MacKinnon) to take a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes – but the visitors played an aggressive and intelligent third period that they desperately needed.
“We believed in ourselves going out there for the third period,” center Brandon Dubinsky said post game. “We played our assess off and we got the win.”
And Dubinsky was the guy who drove the bus. Head coach John Tortorella couldn’t send No. 17 over the boards enough, particularly in the third period when every shift seemed to result in an opportunity for Dubinsky’s line with Nick Foligno and Brandon Saad.
Columbus tied the game on a scramble in front of Varlamov, the puck eventually chipped in by Ryan Murray at 3:56, and from there it felt like the Blue Jackets were on their way to finishing the job.
The game-winning goal was started and finished by Dubinsky. He dove to break up a rush by Alex Tanguay in his own end, enabling Jack Johnson to get the puck ahead to Saad and lead a 3-on-2 rush.
Saad found Foligno in the right circle, who hit David Savard coming on as the trailer, and Savard’s shot was spit out by Varlamov with Dubinsky camped on top of the crease to deposit the rebound.
No, it wasn’t without drama down the stretch: the Blue Jackets couldn’t cash in on two power play opportunities in the final 10 minutes (both penalties committed by former Blue Jacket Blake Comeau), and then took a tripping penalty of their own in the final minute. Nervy moments, they were.
For those on the bench, on the ice, and observing from home, the final minute felt like a fortnight.
“The thing I'm most impressed with is how they came out in the third period," Tortorella said. "They gathered themselves in between periods. I just liked their attitude...we found a way to win. We talked about it -- there's no sense in feeling sorry for yourself. We felt this was the type of game to get out of those slumps.
"They deserve it. I'm happy for them, because they worked hard, and they've been empty. Good for them."