"Those are the plays that win hockey games and move you to the next level." - Head Coach Scott Arniel
There's a hockey adage about "taking a hit to make a play." Late in the third period against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, R.J. Umberger took a hit to change a game.
Not only did he tie the game at 3-3 just two minutes earlier to bring a jam-packed Nationwide Arena back to life, the goal was his second of the game and provided an instant jolt to the Blue Jackets bench.
The Oilers held the lead for most of the third period and seemed content to melt the clock down, but Umberger wasn't having any of it. He got the puck at center ice and chipped the puck to Huselius, creating a 2-on-1 just before being hit hard by Oilers winger Ales Hemsky.
"They're hits you love to take," Umberger said. "It got us a big goal. The urgency was in this locker room.
"It didn't matter if we won 7-1 or battled to the 60th minute, we had to win tonight – and we found a way."
A healthy scratch the previous game, Huselius returned to the lineup and buried the wrist shot for the game-winner with 4:00 to play. He also contributed in a big way, with a pair of goals and an assist on the 3-3 goal.
It was all set up by Umberger, who finished with four points (two goals, two assists), a +4 rating - only the fourth time in Blue Jackets' history that feat has been accomplished (two by Umberger). He was dangerous every time he touched the ice.
"No doubt, R.J. was outstanding tonight," Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. "He made great plays on the goals but what really got our bench going was when he took the hit and chipped the puck ahead.
"Those are the plays that win hockey games and move you to the next level."
Arniel pointed out Umberger's play on the game-winning goal, an encapsulation of the alternate captain's will to win and propensity for leaving everything on the ice.
"It's things like that your teammates really notice," Arniel said. "He sacrificed his body, got the puck through and it led to a goal. He was a strong power forward out there at his best."
The dramatic win in front of 18,370 completed a back-to-back set for the Blue Jackets, and four more points in the standings. After a 3-0 win against the Red Wings in Detroit to open the weekend, a home victory over the last-place Oilers was paramount to keep pace.
And though they trailed early, the deficit didn't affect Umberger or his teammates.
"I felt like we came out flying, too," Umberger said. "We didn't feel like we deserved to be down 2-0, so we kept battling and stuck with it.
"We want to win so bad, we need the points to climb the standings and we needed this one."