The crowd at Nationwide Arena was on its feet for the last 30 seconds of tonight’s win against the Dallas Stars. They were standing because the Blue Jackets had successfully protected a 2-1 lead for more than half a period, and they only needed to fight for 30 seconds more to seal the deal.
According to head coach Todd Richards, those 30 seconds of desperation were his favorite part of the game.
“It was in our zone, and there were some moments I think where you’re on the edge of your seat, but it was the desperation in our game – guys diving and trying to get in the shooting lanes,” Richards said. “That’s what it takes.”
Unlike the complete 60 minutes the Blue Jackets put in against Chicago, this game reiterated the slow start that the team has had for a few games this season. The Blue Jackets only registered three shots in the first period despite three power play opportunities.
“The first period, we could create no momentum out of our power play," Richards said. "It was killing us because it sucked the life right out of us."
Things started to turn around in the second period when the Stars had a minor meltdown, taking three penalties and giving the Blue Jackets a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play. But nothing seemed to click for Columbus in what (at the time) looked like a game-changing moment; Richards described it as being the “worst” power play effort he has seen in his time with the Blue Jackets.
Yet all was not bleak with the power play tonight. Derek Dorsett and Vinny Prospal scored the two tallies for the Blue Jackets, and both players pointed to the 5-on-3 and ensuing 5-on-4 power play as being the turning point of the game.
“Even though we didn’t score on the 5-on-3, I think that’s really where the momentum of the hockey game changed,” Prospal said after the game.
“We started building a lot of momentum from there, and we stuck with it,” Dorsett said. “We just came out and kept bringing it, bringing it, and bringing it.”
After Prospal scored to give the Blue Jackets the lead early in the third period, the clock became a ticking time bomb as the question of whether or not they could maintain it hung heavily in the air.
For Richards, he saw the desperation morph into focus on the bench and poise on the ice.
“You could feel it on the bench, too,” Richards said. “You could feel it with the players talking about their shifts, trying to encourage each other.”
Prospal said the desperation and effort has to be the focus of their game every night if they want to win.
“For us to be successful, we have to grind,” he said. “We don’t have superstars who are going to come in, score 40-50 goals for us. We have to grind, and every line has to chip in, and look what happened.
“To play with that lead, and actually hold on to it, and really not give other teams any chances – it’s good on our part. It’s a confidence builder for the next few games.”