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Labatt Recap: Johnson's late goal downs Colorado

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The neutral zone was I-670 at rush hour, the shooting lanes were I-71 and that’s one way of saying there wasn’t much going on in the third period – so of course, a fluky goal gave the Blue Jackets two points.

Isn’t that always how it goes? Pardon the traffic analogy, please.

After the Blue Jackets missed on a few tremendous opportunities in the offensive zone with regulation winding down (what was really their only threat in the third period), Jack Johnson got the puck at the left point and tossed it toward the net.

One lucky deflection later and his team was ahead 2-1 with 1:07 to go.

No matter how they come, the Blue Jackets will take them, and they earned two points against an Avalanche team fighting for a playoff spot. In front of a crowd of 17,776, they held on in the final minute to lock it up, and their goaltender did some fine work along the way.

Joonas Korpisalo’s third career victory was a 29-save body of work and several of them were of high quality. He’s made 70 saves in the Blue Jackets’ last two wins, and as John Tortorella said this morning, he’s earned the right to keep playing.

"I thought Korpi was outstanding," Tortorella said. "He looked solid tonight. There were a lot of bodies around him and screens, and he made a couple of big saves in the third period to keep us at 1-1. Good for him - he was a big part of the win.

"I thought both teams were fast in the first period. We just grinded away and stayed with it. (Johnson) takes a shot on net, it takes a lucky bounce for us. We'll take the two points and go."

For a rather mundane shot total in the first period (it was 6-5 favoring Colorado), there was ample action and the Blue Jackets came out early and set the tone. They were skating and forcing turnovers all over the ice, and easily could have scored more than their lone goal, which game 58 seconds in.

The opening tally was a point-blank bury for Brandon Dubinsky, who got a perfect pass from Ryan Murray to cap off a 150-foot rush up the ice.

Dubinsky eluded Colorado coverage and dunked the Murray pass for a 1-0 lead in the opening minute, the ideal start for a team that’s had its struggles starting on time.

In the second period, the Avalanche brought their legs and took their game up a level. They hemmed the Blue Jackets in their own end for long stretches, owned the puck in the neutral zone and finally broke through Korpisalo at the 6:02 mark.

Jarome Iginla found a seam in the Jackets’ defense and Chris Wagner redirected his pass through Korpisalo’s pads, giving the visitors some life.

The game slowed down from there, but credit goes to the Blue Jackets for shutting down the Avalanche attack, which has been scoring with increased regularity of late.

And against a team tied for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot coming into the game, the Blue Jackets were, for one night, happy to spoil the party and sweep the Avalanche in a season series for the first time in seven years.

"I thought we started the game the right way. We started well," Johnson said. "In the second period, I thought they started to take over a little bit and in the third period, I thought we played a pretty good period.

"They're a good team, a fast team, and they're going to get their chances here and there. But I thought it was a pretty good game by us."

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