It wasn't a high-scoring affair, but a Jordan Maletta power play score and two Hayden Hodgson goals propelled the Jackets to a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. The victory moves the team's record to 2-0 and gives them six points in the tournament guaranteeing them a spot in the Championship game, Tuesday.
"Early I thought we didn't have our legs," head coach John Madden said. "I thought we played better as the game went on. It wasn't our best effort but I liked our resolve to stay with it, and sometimes when you don't have your best effort you have to find a way to win, and I thought we did that."
The first period was a stout one. Both teams showed some meaty play with each side earning just eight shots each. The Jackets successfully killed off two penalties before getting their first power play of the night when Maletta drew the tripping call with 20 seconds to play.
The man advantage carried over to the second period and Maletta had a full circle performance. With 13 seconds remaining in the power play, the captain fired a wrist shot from the high slot past the Wild goaltender to make it 1-0 Blue Jackets. Calvin Thurkauf had the lone assist, his fourth of the tournament.
"Today we were talking about trying to score off the rush on the power play," Maletta said. "Most teams try to curl up and hit the 'D', but we thought 'we have an extra guy, we might as well try to score.' The puck came to me in the slot and I found that corner."
Hayden Hodgson added a second Jackets score 8:58 into the second to make it 2-0. But less than four minutes later, former Jackets prospect Dante Salituro ended Kulbakov's shutout bid when he scored to make it 2-1.
The third period saw the Jackets button up a bit. After taking four penalties and getting only one power play through 40 minutes, the team was focused on playing smart. The Wild pushed for opportunities but it was the Jackets that would find a way to score.
It was Hodgson who answered the call. He added to his stat line by carrying the puck into the zone and down the right side. With perfect timing, he fired a laser that beat the goalie to make it 3-1 which stood through the remainder of regulation.
Hodgson is the fourth Jacket to score two goals in one game in this year's Tournament and the only player on either team to have a multi-point game Saturday.
"He had a really nice game," Madden said. "He's a really good player. He can score goals and he can shoot the puck. I saw him last year, and when I saw him shoot the puck I thought 'that's an NHL caliber shot."
Goaltender Ivan Kulbakov faced 30 shots and made 29 saves on the evening.
Sunday is an off day for the team, they face St. Louis Monday in their final round robin game, but regardless of the outcome, the Jackets are guaranteed a spot in the Championship game.
The Jackets don't only hold the lead in their division based on record, the tournament is scored on a point-based system. So while the Blues beat Dallas Saturday, the win came in overtime (earning them two points as opposed to three points gained in a regulation win). Even if St. Louis were to beat the Jackets Monday, they cannot overtake them in total points earned.
With a top seeding confirmed, Maletta doesn't feel his team will have any trouble finding motivation for Monday's matchup.
"We know if we don't play well Monday then who knows what's going to happen Tuesday," Maletta said. "Obviously we want to win this Tournament, every team does, but our main goal is to play well, win the tournament, and then hopefully get noticed by all the management here and earn a spot on the roster."