BLUE JACKETS 2 | PANTHERS 1
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said two days ago that his team needed to find ways to win games rather than the opposite, an issue that had plagued them for the last two weeks.
Consider that message delivered.
They had to work for this one, but they got the two points they were looking for. The Blue Jackets scored the first goal and never trailed the rest of the way, breaking a 1-1 tie midway through the third period to snap a six-game losing skid and beat the Florida Panthers for the ninth consecutive time in a 2-1 final at Nationwide Arena.
And right from the drop of the puck, the newly-assembled trio of Matt Calvert, Michael Chaput and Jack Skille did exactly what they’re expected to do. Their energy was palpable, and after a sluggish start to the game for Columbus, they strung a few hard-working shifts together to get the Jackets back in the game.
Late in the opening period, they finally broke through and gave the Blue Jackets a much-needed lead headed into the intermission. Skille took a hard hit along the boards to keep a cycle alive, and Chaput hit Calvert from behind the net with a perfect pass and it was shooter against goaltender - and this time, the shooter won.
Calvert made one slick deke to the backhand and tucked his third goal of the season into a wide open net with 4:53 left in the first, and the Blue Jackets kept it tidy into the break.
Kerby Rychel, playing his second NHL game, was whistled for high-sticking on the first shift of the second period and the Panthers got a power play with a fresh sheet of ice. They needed less than a minute to convert, with rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad firing a quick shot through a maze of bodies that Sergei Bobrovsky couldn’t pick up in time.
So, the scene was a familiar one: the Blue Jackets, with a -22 third period goal differential entering the game, were once again faced with an opportunity to win the final period and a hockey game.
They had that extra step back in the third and got in on the forecheck, won battles and didn't give the Panthers anything for free.
Midway through the third period, they cashed in on one of their best shifts of the night. Rychel went to work below the goal line, got the puck into the paint and Jenner cashed the game-winner with 9:55 to go.
“The guys stepped up tonight,” Richards said. “This feeling is way better than losing, I’ll tell you that. This is the way we have to play. We were opportunistic a little bit. A 2-1 game, for me right now, is perfect. For me it’s about doing the right things. We started slow…but once the emotion got up in the game with some physicality, we started to settle in and play.”
The Blue Jackets have had so many chances over the past few games, and they really needed a goal in the mold of Jenner’s to pay off the work they put in. It was Blue Jackets hockey, that's for sure: working hard down low, funneling pucks to the front and out-numbering the defense. Jenner’s second goal of the season was a big one for the Jackets and helped them get a win that was desperately needed.
at Florida Panthers
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET