CALGARY – Officially, the Blue Jackets finished this Western Canada road trip with a 2-1-0 record.
Another way to think of it: they were one poor period away from potentially sweeping the trip for the second year in a row.
Tonight’s game at Scotiabank Saddledome was in some ways similar to their 2-1 shootout win over Vancouver the night before: there wasn't much happening offensively, both teams were limiting scoring chances, and there was excellent goaltending from the visiting team.
For the second straight night, it was rookie Joonas Korpisalo getting it done in net, making 30 saves to hold off a third-period charge from Calgary and lead the Blue Jackets to another 2-1 victory.
William Karlsson scored twice – the third two-goal game of his career and his second two-goal game this season – to handle the offensive load for Columbus, which again struggled to generate offense but managed to cash in on chances when they needed to.
The biggest was Karlsson’s winner in the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in a game that never really developed, though John Tortorella had a different word for it.
“We talked about it after the second period, just not opening up,” Tortorella said. “It was an ugly game, just ugly. We (told the players) just don’t open up and give them anything for free. We did a really good job of keeping everything to the outside.
“We would’ve liked to see a little more forechecking. There weren’t major mistakes or giving up glorious chances like what happened in Vancouver those last five or six minutes.”
When there were mistakes, Korpisalo was there to shut the door.
And, compared to last night’s game, Korpisalo didn’t have to make many miraculous saves to preserve the tie or the lead. He was sound, solid and 'unflappable,' as Tortorella called him in Vancouver, at times making it look easy in a building that can be tough to play in.
The Blue Jackets, though, might consider playing more games at the Saddledome. They haven’t lost a game in Calgary since Dec. 1, 2011 (6-0-0 in that span).
Tortorella said it’s always a good feeling to see players like Karlsson, who has shouldered a heavy load of defensive responsibility and increasingly played more tough minutes, get rewarded on the scoresheet.
Karlsson’s first tied the game at 1-1 midway through the second period, finally getting one past Karri Ramo on a well-orchestrated rush led up the ice by Seth Jones. Jones sold the shot all the way but made the pass at the last moment, and Karlsson snuck it underneath Ramo at 9:39.
In another tight game with 20 minutes to play – this one a 1-1 tie – the Blue Jackets again found a way to get two points.
Karlsson’s game winner came 1:42 into the third period, capping off a 2-on-1 led by Matt Calvert (who finished with two assists and was one of the more noticeable, active forwards in the game).
Not unlike the game in Vancouver, the Blue Jackets got a late push from the Flames but nothing dangerous or sustained ever materialized. When there were chances, Korpisalo made saves, got whistles, and helped keep the game under control.
“He’s been saving our asses lately,” Karlsson said with a laugh post-game.
“We defended really well and Korpi made saves when we needed it,” Tortorella said. “I thought everybody contributed; we tried to use the whole bench. We had a good weekend here. We’ll get back at it and get ready when we play at home (Tuesday).”