It’s one of the older clichés in the game: the two-goal lead is the most dreaded lead in hockey. The Blue Jackets have tested that theory a few times in the past two weeks. In San Jose, they proved it right.
Three times the Jackets have trailed by two goals this season, three times they have drawn even with second period surges, and three times the Jackets have blinked first in the third period. But against a Sharks team loaded with superstar power, the Jackets leaned on their own hot scorers to persevere.
Ryan Johansen continued his torrid scoring pace with two goals in the second period, one on an individual effort that brought the Jackets to life. They were being outshot 20-8 when Johansen’s backhander sailed over Antti Niemi’s shoulder. His second goal gave the Jackets the lead heading to the third.
Johansen had a two-goal second period against the Stars earlier in the season to help erase a two-goal deficit, only to see Tyler Seguin give the Stars the lead midway through the third en route to a Dallas win. Again in Ottawa, the Jackets pulled even from two goals down with a strong second period only to surrender Mike Hoffman’s game-winner. Thursday seemed to be heading the same direction when Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski tallied early in the third to give San Jose a lead.
But tonight’s Jackets were a resilient bunch that wouldn’t take no for an answer. Nick Foligno buried a power play rebound to tie the game. The Jackets would score late in the third to take the lead, only to see Johansen's hat trick bid disallowed due to incidental contact between Foligno and Niemi in the crease. The Jackets responded with the same resolve that got them to that point.
"I was so proud of the guys that they kept going," said Foligno of the disallowed goal. "We found a way to get one late and karma's sometimes good if you handle it the right way."
In the final minute, Mark Letestu got a stick on a David Savard point shot to score his second of the night and give the Jackets the win on their first leg of this difficult road trip.
"The guys had a 'never say die' [mentality] and kept battling back and sticking with the plan. Tonight, thankfully, we got rewarded for it," said Letestu.
It was his second of the night, the other a short handed tally in the second on a feed from Artem Anisimov. Anisimov himself had arguably his best game of the season, outstanding on the penalty kill throughout the night and generating two other shorthanded scoring chances.
Resilience was a storyline for these Jackets last season, when they overcame two-goal deficits twice in the postseason to defeat the Penguins and almost did so a third time in Game 6. They’ve carried that pluck into this season and have been a tough out in the early going.
They've been a strong second period team, but a little extra mental toughness went a long way in the third period tonight.