Holding a 2-0 lead late in the second period tonight, the Blue Jackets started to sputter – and John Tortorella was hoping they didn’t crack as he'd seen happen before.
The Ottawa Senators, held quiet most of the night, started to crank it up and put Columbus back on its heels. But there would be no late-period letdown or a break in the resolve, thanks to sacrifices in shot-blocking and stellar goaltending (not a repeat) from rookie Joonas Korpisalo, who was the game's No. 1 star with 33 saves.
And once again, the Blue Jackets bent but didn’t break en route to another win on home ice, their second in a row overall, this one a 4-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators at Nationwide Arena. They're 6-1-2 in their last nine games.
Let’s do a brief rundown: Brandon Saad scored the game-winner (his 20th of the season), Boone Jenner scored twice (give him 19 on the year) and Seth Jones chipped in with two assists to set a new career high in that regard with 20.
It was an all-hands-on-deck effort from the Blue Jackets, who have found a rhythm of late and are displaying glimpses of the identity that Tortorella wants them to take on.
“We can still get better at some parts of the game, but it was another good 60 for us,” Jenner said. “We want to keep going in the right direction, keep building. We know (Ottawa) is fighting for the playoffs and we’re playing good hockey right now, too. No matter who we’re playing, we have to keep our level the same.
“There are parts of the game we can get better, but we did a good job of not breaking and sticking to ourselves and we came out with a win.”
Unlike Thursday’s win over the Anaheim Ducks, one that involved a multi-goal comeback in the third period, the Blue Jackets never trailed against the Senators. They made some mistakes, sure, but for the most part, kept it under control and closed the game out in the closing moments.
Jenner started it off with a goal at 18:29 of the first period, cashing in on the Blue Jackets’ 13th shot of the opening frame. Jones let a rocket shot go from the right wing boards and it leaked through Craig Anderson, but Jenner – to no one’s surprise – was camped in the blue paint to make sure of the 1-0 lead.
Cam Atkinson, who had a multi-point effort of his own, bumped the lead to 2-0 with 5:13 left in the second period. His line kept humming along offensively, and this particular sequence was driven by Brandon Dubinsky, who won a battle down low and walked in front before feeding Atkinson for a one-timer in the slot.
Ottawa pulled within a goal on two occasions: the first came on a 5-on-3 power play early in the third period after a couple of fortunate breaks. Erik Karlsson gathered a loose puck and found Bobby Ryan alone in the left circle for a point-blank tally at 2:19, but the Blue Jackets got it back late in regulation.
Saad’s goal was the product of a timely block by Alexander Wennberg in his own end, allowing Scott Hartnell to chip the puck to Saad on a 2-on-1. Saad flew past the Senators defense and beat Anderson five-hole with 5:35 to go, giving him 21 goals on the season and only two shy of his previous career high.
After a Cody Ceci goal that made it a 3-2 game 1:18 later, Jenner intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and put the game away with an empty-netter at 19:16.
“We played well, we played hard and scored important goals at key times,” Tortorella said. “The most important part of our game is we’ve been a patient team. When something bad happens to us, we don’t get all jammed up and panic – and I think that’s helped us.
“We’ve played through some momentums that have gone against us and grabbed it back, and that’s really encouraging.”