NEWARK, N.J. – This was certainly a defensive-minded, close-to-the-vest game reminiscent of those played by the Devils of years past.
The Blue Jackets started sluggishly out of the gate, turned pucks over and did not make it easy on themselves by any stretch – and it fed right into New Jersey’s counterpunching, attacking style.
They were certainly not sharp, but what coach John Tortorella told his team between periods is that they needed to find a way, dig deep and grind out two points tonight at Prudential Center, and do so against a team full of confidence on a four-game winning streak.
And in the third period, the dam broke in a matter of 35 seconds.
First it was Boone Jenner going hard to the net, awaiting a rebound and beating Cory Schneider 9:03 into the final frame. David Clarkson was around the net, Gregory Campbell got it there, and Jenner was fresh off the bench to give Columbus the lead.
On the next shift, Scott Hartnell – who played a terrific game for the Blue Jackets – won a battle in the offensive zone, slipped the puck to Dubinsky and then it was on to Cam Atkinson for a tap-in goal at 9:38.
Hartnell added a goal on a wicked shot of his own, carrying the puck into the slot from the corner, turning and ripping a slapper high-glove on Schneider with 5:13 remaining in regulation.
Without much going their way early in the game (and a lot of it self-inflicted), the Blue Jackets had something to build on and it came on in a hurry.
“We didn’t play that well,” Tortorella said. “But the good thing about it is we still grinded away. I thought we defended well, Bob was solid and to me, that’s the biggest positive. Those are important games to win, and we’ll be on the other side of it sometime during the year, so we’ll take it and go from there.
“You have to find a way. They just need to stay with it, and like we talked about between the second and third, it’s going to be a 1-0 game and we scored a goal and then a couple others. These are good things as we try to climb the steps.”
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It was a 0-0 game through two periods in large part due to the play of Sergei Bobrovsky, who played his best game since Tortorella took over and also his best of the season. He made 23 saves, including some fine work while the Blue Jackets were shorthanded, and kept his team in the fight when the tide seemed turned heavily against them.
With only 14 shots for the Blue Jackets, it was a heavy workload night for the goaltender and he answered the bell – and seeing Bobrovsky exude confidence when it seemed the opposite only a week ago was a significant development, Tortorella said.
“The puck just hit him,” Tortorella said. “He was in such great position. You didn’t see the net, and he’s a big reason why we win tonight. That’s the greatest news, and his game has slowly come along here.”