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Labatt Recap: Korpisalo gets first NHL win as Jackets top Flyers

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Take a bow, Joonas Korpisalo.

You wouldn’t know this was his third NHL start by the calm, collected demeanor the 21-year-old goaltender exudes on the ice. He was a hard-luck loser in his debut on Monday, had a rough go against the league’s best team on Tuesday, and had a night off Thursday to regroup before making another start tonight on home ice.

And this one had a much better ending for Korpisalo and his teammates.

The Blue Jackets took a 2-0 lead into the third period, lost their way a bit in the third and had to work overtime to pick up a second point. Korpisalo was at the center of it, with 30 saves in regulation and overtime and five (!) more in the shootout against some fairly skilled players.

Columbus’ 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers was its second straight victory and also its seventh straight on home ice against this particular Metro Division rival.

“I just tried to get us the win, and try to stay patient and play my game,” Korpisalo said. “It worked today – we got the win.”

As coach John Tortorella said after Thursday’s victory in Arizona: these Blue Jackets once again found a way to win a game. It hasn’t gone their way too often of late and some games have gotten away from them, but twice in three days, they’ve stuck with it and managed to get two points.

On this night, it was almost the complete opposite of that 7-5 red light palooza in Glendale.

Both goaltenders – Korpisalo and Steve Mason – played exceptionally well and kept the game within reach for their respective teams. The Blue Jackets scored late in the first period and later in the second period to take a semi-comfortable lead going into the third, but the Flyers, to their credit, kept after it.

“It’s such a great experience for (Korpisalo),” Tortorella said. “For right now and helping us win a game, and for the future as he keeps on moving forward.”

Brandon Saad scored his second goal in as many games, a nifty forehand finish just as a power play expired, to give Columbus a 1-0 lead at 14:01 of the opening period.

It was a strong start for the Blue Jackets in their first game back home after a road trip out west (which can be challenging), out-shooting the Flyers 16-9 and playing with palpable energy from all four lines.

“I really liked our start,” Tortorella said. “I’m happy (with) the start. I was really concerned what we were going to be like after coming off the road and the amount of hockey we’ve played. I thought we had a really start and I was happy about that.”

As the second period wound down, it was Ryan Murray finishing late in a four-minute power play after captain Nick Foligno made a crafty play below the goal line to strip the puck and get it to the middle point and Murray’s stick. Murray snapped a wrister through traffic that Mason never saw, and the Blue Jackets held a 2-0 lead with 1:51 to go in the middle frame.

While the Flyers didn’t take the game over in the third period, they were opportunistic and capitalized twice to send the game to overtime. Scott Laughton cut the lead in half after a long and exasperating defensive zone shift for the Blue Jackets, who couldn’t seem to get a clear or a whistle.

With 5:41 to go, Jake Voracek slipped behind the defense and snapped a quick shot inside the far post on Korpisalo, setting the stage for overtime and then the shootout.

Brandon Dubinsky, thanks to a scouting report from Cam Atkinson on the bench, beat Mason glove side in the sixth round and Korpisalo made one final stop on Brayden Schenn to lock up his first NHL win.

“We needed a result. This one’s huge,” Dubinsky said. “We’re really happy for Korpi back there, he played really well. We’ve got to find a way to keep this going in the right direction and get some more points here before the break.

“That ham, turkey, tenderloin or whatever you like is going to taste a lot better on Christmas if we can find a way to get some points on Monday.”

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