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Post Game: Blue Jackets 2, Devils 1 (SO)

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets



The Blue Jackets would have loved to have wrapped this one up in regulation, but two points are two points and they will absolutely take them.

Leading 1-0 deep into an important Metropolitan Division game against the New Jersey Devils on the road, the Blue Jackets were fully engaged in their structure and their game plan - but one breakdown turned the game the other way (albeit for just a moment). They got caught in transition and the Devils were able to get a goal from Adam Henrique - his first in 13 games - to even things up at 1-1 and send the game to bonus hockey.

Despite several opportunities in overtime (this was a theme throughout the game), the Blue Jackets were unable to capitalize and tried their luck in the shootout. And they'll take the good fortune, too, plus a great goal from Cam Atkinson, along with two points on Blue Jackets Air with them back to Columbus.

Atkinson's patented shootout move - a quick fake to his forehand, then sliding the puck along the ice - was the only goal in the shootout and it came in a "you score, you win" situation in the bottom of the third round. The Blue Jackets poured off the bench to celebrate their third consecutive win, a victory that pulled them into a four-way tie for third place in the division, creating quite a logjam and setting up for an exciting second half of the season.

But the bottom line remains: despite a bevy of injuries and some tough luck sprinkled in, the Blue Jackets are entrenched in a battle for their playoff lives and they've yet to get Nathan Horton in the lineup. 

Artem Anisimov opened the scoring at 7:34 of the first period on what was quite the persistent play; Atkinson and Dubinsky jammed the net with a couple of prime chances but Brodeur shut the first one down. Anisimov, camped at the top of the crease, corralled the loose puck and shelfed it over a sprawled-out Brodeur to give Columbus a 1-0 lead.

That's where things stood until Henrique netted the equalizer at 5:45 of the third period, the only puck to get past Curtis McElhinney in 65 minutes of play and the shootout. He made 16 saves and was far less busy than Brodeur, but no less impressive. 

Instead of identifying a turning point in tonight's game, let's look at something that *could* have been (in a bad way) for the Blue Jackets but ended up not harming them.

Travis Zajac took a hooking penalty 40 seconds into the third period with the Blue Jackets ahead 1-0, and sent them on a 58-second two-man advantage with a big chance to widen the margin. It wasn't to be and the Devils did a nice job killing it off, but the Jackets really managed what could have been a hazardous momentum swing very well. 

McElhinney was not called upon as often as Brodeur, but he made some big saves at key moments to preserve the lead and/or get the Jackets into the extra session. His best work was in the shootout, denying Jagr, Elias and Clowe with relative ease. 

Simply put: the Devils don't even sniff a point without this guy tonight. The living legend made 29 saves in regulation and overtime - including a few 10-bell stops - to give his team a fighting chance.

This guy has seriously picked up his game of late and the Jackets are benefitting from another source of offense. He tallied his 11th of the season tonight to put him just four back of Johansen for the team lead, and has anchored an effective trio with Dubinsky and Atkinson. 


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