Dan Fritsche scored two goals, Trevor Letowski scored the game-winning goal and added an assist and David Vyborny tallied two helpers as the Blue Jackets won their third-straight home game in a seesaw battle, 4-3, in front of 13,187 at Nationwide Arena on Friday night.
Fritsche scored his second goal of the night at 6:47 of the third period, taking a feed from Letowski, who found Fritsche with open ice around the right face off circle. Fritsche fired a slap shot past Chicago goaltender Craig Anderson, giving the Jackets a 3-2 lead.
Letowski scored what turned out to be the game winner three minutes later, stealing the puck from the Blackhawk defense and beating Anderson over his left shoulder, for a 4-2 lead.
Chicago cut the deficit to one later in the third period, scoring while both teams were down a man, as Brent Seabrook’s goal brought Chicago within 4-3. But Marc Denis and the Columbus defense would shut the door, sealing the one-goal victory. Denis stopped 28-of-31 shots on the evening, to earn the win.
The Blue Jackets took an early 1-0 advantage at 6:37 of the first, with Fritsche scoring his first of the night on a breakaway, set up by a pass from Vyborny. All alone with Chicago’s starter in goal, Michael Leighton, Fritsche beat him top shelf to the glove side. The Blackhawks would tie the score at 18:51, when Rene Bourque lit the lamp on a power-play goal, knotting the score at one at the first intermission.
Columbus retook the lead at 7:15 of the second period, as Mark Hartigan’s slap shot from the right face off circle gave the Jackets a 2-1 lead. The power-play goal was assisted by Vyborny and rookie Gilbert Brule. Chicago tied the score once again at 17:25 of the second period, scoring their second power-play goal of the night, scored by Tyler Arnason to tie the score at two.
For the evening, the Blackhawks out shot the Blue Jackets, 31-21, while Columbus finished 1-for-13 on the power play and killed off 9-of-11 Blackhawk power-play attempts.
Columbus will return to action on Sunday night, playing host to the Nashville Predators in a 5 p.m. contest that will wrap up the Blue Jackets preseason slate.
QUOTES FROM TONIGHT'S GAME
Columbus right wing Dan Fritsche
On the regular season quickly approaching:
“We have one more exhibition game and then the season is upon us. We wanted to get some momentum going into the season, so we took this game very seriously and we knew we needed a win.”
On getting back on the ice:
“The first game, it’s hard. I have to get my timing back. I got to get my confidence back. It was good to get out there tonight. I felt like my old self. I think I am good to go.”
On his thoughts of him making the team:
“I am battling for a job just like everyone else, but I am just going to keep doing what everyone else is doing. I am just playing as hard as I can, game in and game out, and we’ll see if I get a spot on the roster.”
Columbus center Mark Hartigan
On getting a win after four straight losses:
“It’s definitely nice to get a win right now before the regular season. It’s nice to see some guys back in the lineup and getting healthy just before the season starts. I think it was a big win for us, even though we had a ton of penalties.”
On things going in the right direction:
“Intensity is really starting to pick up, even in practice. The veterans are really starting to pick it up right now and really helping the young guys out. You can tell the team, everybody wants a win right now, they want to go into the season on the right foot and start off hot.”
Columbus coach Gerard Gallant:
On getting a win:
“The guys played pretty hard tonight. It was a game where we played pretty hard. We had a lot of penalties tonight and had a lot of penalties to kill, we have to correct that. But overall it was a pretty good performance.”
On Gilbert Brule’s play:
“He is playing great. The kid is playing real super for us. We want him to make our hockey team. We want him to play in Columbus, but there is one more game to go and then it is decision time.”