The Blue Jackets looked adversity right in the face tonight in Montreal, but they were not the first to blink.
Hanging on to a 2-1 lead down the stretch at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens put on one of their famous third-period rallies and came in waves for the final three minutes. Brian Gionta was in the right place at the right time with 1:21 remaining, as Tomas Plekanec sent the puck in front and it stopped dead in the goal crease. Gionta was there to tap it in and send the game to overtime, and the building came alive for seemingly the first time all night.
In overtime, the Canadiens had the majority of puck possession save for a couple of opportunities for Columbus. Blue Jackets goalie Curtis Sanford made a strong stand-up save on a driving Erik Cole to extend the game to the shootout, where the “Sandman” was lights-out again.
Montreal used David Desharnais (missed the net), Max Pacioretty (save) and Gionta (save) in the shootout and Sanford came away with the clean slate. The Blue Jackets won the game thanks to a gorgeous, highlight-reel goal from Rick Nash that was the only tally in the shootout.
How did this game unfold?
“Quickly” is the best way to describe it. The Canadiens like to push the pace, but the Blue Jackets were game right from the opening faceoff. Vinny Prospal opened the scoring at 2:03 of the first period, burying a rebound from Aaron Johnson’s drive to the net. Montreal was not the crisp-passing club they’re known to be, but one mistake tied the game late in the first.
Plekanec intercepted a clearing pass from James Wisniewski and fed Andrei Kostitsyn with a lead pass, and the latter had a clean look at Sanford with 1.5 seconds left in the frame. R. J. Umberger responded by scoring a nifty goal off a set faceoff play in the second period, in a building where he knows a few things about scoring goals.
The Blue Jackets end their four-game, nine-day Canadian road trip with a 2-2-0 record and head back to Columbus to begin a five-game homestand that begins Thursday against the Nashville Predators.
Tonight’s pivotal moment is not one, but a series of moments in overtime that enabled the Blue Jackets to get to the shootout. Montreal came in waves in the 4-on-4 session, and got good looks from P.K. Subban, Cole and Pacioretty off the rush. Sanford was there to turn them away, and made those three game-clinching stops in the shootout.
- Columbus is now 6-4-2 in its last 12 games after opening the season 2-12-1 the first 15 games. The club also is 3-2-2 the last seven road games after opening the campaign 0-7-0 away from Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets are now 6-4-1 all-time against Montreal, including a 4-2-1 mark at Bell Centre.
- Prospal snapped a seven-game goalless skid with his seventh of the season tonight. He had last scored Nov. 19 at Nashville. Dating back to last season, he has registered 16-28-44 his last 56 games.
- Nikita Nikitin has assists in two of the past three games after notching an assist on Umberger’s goal. He has points in seven of 12 games since being acquired from St. Louis in exchange for Kris Russell on Nov. 11. He has played 23-plus minutes in all but two games, including a career high 29:57 tonight.
- Umberger snapped a four-game goalless skid with his fourth of the season. He last scored Nov. 25 vs. Buffalo. He also had an assist on Prospal’s goal, his first helper in 14 games as he last had an assist Oct. 30 vs. Anaheim. It also was his first multi-point game since Oct. 25 vs. Detroit.
- Samuel Pahlsson has points in three of the past four games after collecting an assist on Umberger’s goal. He has 1-3-4 the last four games after being held pointless the previous 10 games.
- Sanford stopped 18-of-20 shots through regulation and overtime, as well as all three Canadiens shooters in the shootout. He has allowed two of fewer goals in six of his 10 starts. He is 5-3-2 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 11 games this season.
- Johnson picked up his first assist since Nov. 5 at Philadelphia with a helper on Prospal’s goal. He also had two hits and two shots on goal.
vs. Nashville Predators
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com