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Labatt Recap: Hartnell leads wild comeback win over Chicago

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Nine seconds in, 1-0 Chicago.

Fourteen minutes in, 3-0 Chicago.

Sixty-two minutes and 28 seconds in, 5-4 Blue Jackets.

There was plenty of fight in the home team tonight, even after a tough start and a deficit that felt like it would only continue to grow.

It may have been Game 82 and the final game of their season, but the Blue Jackets wanted to finish it off the right way – and did they ever.

Scott Hartnell led the way and broke a 15-game goalless skid, scoring twice and adding two assists (he was the game’s No. 1 star) to cap off a wild, unpredictable and pretty darn fun 5-4 overtime win in front of a standing-room only crowd of 19,177 at Nationwide Arena.

The 33-year-old veteran of over 1,100 NHL games opened and closed the scoring tonight. His first goal was the 300th of his career and it brought Columbus within 3-1, and that’s when this game started to turn around.

And it turned around quickly.

Matt Calvert made it a 3-2 game with his second goal in as many games, banking a backhand shot in off Corey Crawford at 12:55 of the second period, and a few minutes later, it was officially “game on.”

A three-way passing play play started by Hartnell, executed brilliantly in the middle of the ice by Alexander Wennberg and finished into an empty net by former Blackhawk and current Columbus leading goal scorer Brandon Saad was the equalizer, coming with exactly three minutes left in the second period.

It was artful, it was pinpoint and it was a joy to watch. And it brought the building to life.

“It was unbelievable,” Wennberg said. “The atmosphere was crazy. It was a tough start, for sure, but it was a great win coming back and a great way to end it. We had a lot of good pace, and at the end, we got what we wanted.”

Wennberg’s third point of the night was the go-ahead goal 3:09 into the third period, finishing a perfect pass from Hartnell behind the Chicago net. The Blue Jackets had chances to extend their lead but it was Chicago answering back with 10:11 to play: Kane buried a one-time pass from Marcus Kruger to pull things into a 4-4 tie, setting up for an entertaining finish.

The Blackhawks had a 5-on-3 advantage for 47 seconds late in regulation and, thanks to some timely penalty-killing by the Blue Jackets, it was a fruitless venture.

In overtime, Teuvo Teravaianen’s last-gasp effort to slow down a streaking Cam Atkinson resulted in a hooking penalty to put the Blue Jackets on the power play in sudden death.

Less than a minute into the power play, Atkinson ripped a one-timer off Hartnell's leg (ouch) and into the net (totally worth it), giving the Blue Jackets one last win to close the book on 2015-16.

And as one chapter ends, another begins. Tonight’s win was a feel-good way to end a disappointing season, but in the big picture, there’s much to be done to ensure the Blue Jackets are playing beyond mid-April in 2017.

“I didn’t say a word to them after the first period, quite honestly,” said coach John Tortorella. “I didn’t need to say anything. They knew where we stood. They’ve handled themselves very well in this situation and I thought they came through with a very solid game after that.

“But we’re not in the playoffs. We’re not going there (with positivity) because we’ve won a few games. My glass if half-full – I feel good about a number of different things here. I’m not trying to be negative, but we have a lot of work to do when we break camp next year.”

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