Through 40 minutes of tonight’s game, the Blue Jackets played a steady game and positioned themselves to get a road win against a good team in a difficult building.
Columbus’ forecheck was going again, creating turnovers and scoring chances by making the Blackhawk defense turn around and retrieve the puck in the defensive zone. Of the Blue Jackets’ 16 shots in the first two periods, two found their way behind Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery and the game was even heading into the final frame.
The Blackhawks struck early in the third period on a goal from Viktor Stalberg, who was the offensive catalyst for the home side tonight. He scored off the rush at 4:51, beating Blue Jackets goaltender Allen York to the stick side for Chicago’s third lead of the game. Stalberg netted his second of the night on a tap-in at the doorstep, finishing a wrap-around attempt from line mate Andrew Brunette with 13:36 to play. The big winger out of the University of Vermont scored his pair of goals in a span of 1:58 and it ended up being the difference in the hockey game.
Vinny Prospal drew the Blue Jackets even at 1-1 just three minutes after Marcus Kruger opened the scoring in the first period - his team-leading fifth goal of the season and 10th point overall. Fedor Tyutin slid a pretty pass across the slot to an open Prospal, who one-timed the puck over Emery’s shoulder.
Derek MacKenzie, elevated to center the top line tonight, scored the game-tying goal in the second period after a persistent shift. Niklas Hjalmarsson fell down at the blue line, allowing MacKenzie to gain possession of the puck and feed Nash in the slot. The first shot from Nash was blocked, but the rebound made it to the other post and MacKenzie roofed it under the crossbar.
York made 33 saves between the pipes in his first career start, and looked calm and under control in a scoreless second period.
The early moments of the third period can best be described as “chaotic.” There were two minor penalties, a disallowed goal and Stalberg’s go-ahead tally just after it looked like the Blue Jackets were dodging a bullet. Patrick Sharp appeared to score Chicago’s third goal of the game on the power play, but the goal was washed out due to a high-sticking penalty to Bryan Bickell. The teams skated 4-on-4 where Stalberg got some open ice.
Using his speed, Stalberg cut across the slot and whipped a wrist shot inside York’s blocker-side post to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead. That goal gave new life to the Blackhawks, who were back on their heels in the second period and it proved to be the game-winner.
- The term “MVP” might stand for “more Vinny Prospal” for the Blue Jackets. There’s no slowing down for the steady winger, who scored Columbus’ first goal of the game and has picked up points in eight of the club’s first 11 games. Prospal fired five shots on goal tonight, and his first-period marker was his second in two games as he lit the lamp against the Sabres on Thursday night.
- Coach Scott Arniel’s No. 1 defense pairing logged another monster game. James Wisniewski led all players with 30:09 TOI, just 21 seconds shy of his career-high (30:30) set Jan. 22, 2011 vs. the Anaheim ducks. Wisniewski registered the secondary assist on Prospal’s goal, and has played at least 27 minutes in each of his three games this season. His partner, Fedor Tyutin played 29:02 and made a nice play to set up the Prospal goal. Tyutin has registered 1-2-3 the past four games after opening with 0-1-1 in the first seven games of the season.
- MacKenzie’s prowess on the forecheck really helped Columbus’ top line get possession time tonight. MacKenzie has goals in two of the past three games after scoring his second goal of the season in the middle frame. Prior to his shorthanded empty-net goal Oct. 25 vs. Detroit, he had been held goalless the previous 17 games. MacKenzie was credited with a game-high seven hits, as well.
- Blackhawks winger John Scott played a game-low 1:44 in tonight’s game.
- Defenseman Aaron Johnson recorded a helper on MacKenzie’s goal to give him 2-3-5 in seven games this season – the best point total among Blue Jackets’ defensemen.
vs. Anaheim Ducks
Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com