The Blue Jackets entered tonight’s game in Glendale slightly shorthanded.
They remained without top goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, out since Dec. 8 with a groin strain. Their No. 1 center, Ryan Johansen, was made a healthy scratch. Both of their top defensemen – Jack Johnson and David Savard – were out of the lineup with injuries.
On the wrong end of a five-game streak, the Blue Jackets needed nothing short of a group effort to get back on track. And they got it.
With some wild swings, a lot of uncertainty and plenty of offense, Columbus snapped out of its funk with a 7-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
It started less than a minute into the game with a clean breakout and transition up the ice. Alexander Wennberg, who recorded his second three-point game in a week, took a hit to make a play and get the puck ahead to Brandon Saad (a three-point effort himself), who walked in and beat Anders Lindback cleanly to the blocker side for a 1-0 lead.
Matt Calvert scored an eerily similar goal at 2:26, taking a feed from Cam Atkinson and beating Lindback over his catching glove.
Who said the Blue Jackets were having trouble scoring goals?
“Tonight, we opened it up and it was a lot of fun,” Calvert said. “There were some plays we’d like to have back defensively, but we’re going to take what we can get. A lot of guys had been struggling – myself included – and we got one tonight. Hopefully that can get us going and make it easier on our goaltender.”
Speaking of goaltenders, this game was not one for their highlight reels.
Arizona closed to 2-1 later in the first period, then scored twice on Curtis McElhinney in a span of 10 seconds to take a 3-2 lead at 8:25 of the second period. But not to be outdone, the Blue Jackets countered with two tallies in 73 seconds to regain a 4-3 lead.
The fourth goal, scored by Atkinson on the rush, spelled the end of Lindback’s night after yielding four goals on 10 shots.
Jordan Martinook’s wrap-around hit Kevin Connauton’s skate and tied the game less than two minutes after Atkinson gave Columbus the lead, but captain Nick Foligno scored a big goal late in the second period to restore the Blue Jackets’ advantage.
Saad made the play, stealing the puck in his own zone and hitting Foligno with a 100-foot stretch pass to set up a mini-breakaway. Foligno unleashed a quick shot that beat Louis Domingue on the stick side with 2:49 left in the second period.
David Clarkson’s first goal as a Blue Jacket, set up by a deft Scott Hartnell pass, temporarily gave Columbus a 6-4 lead, but the Coyotes got it right back on Tobias Rieder’s second goal of the game at 3:19 of the third.
Brandon Dubinsky’s empty netter added the extra point for Columbus, sealing the win and sending them back home with a much-needed good feeling.
“(It was) entertaining,” coach John Tortorella said. “I don’t have any other word for it. I’m sure both coaches were saying the same thing in between periods. You could tell it was one of those games all the way through, at all positions. The last shot was going to win.
“I’m just glad we found a way to win; we’ve certainly played better than we did tonight and found ways to lose. We found a way to win and that’s encouraging.”