BLUE JACKETS (2-3-1) 2, STARS (2-3-1) 1
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OHIO
It was scrappy, diligent, and persistent -- but regardless of the preferred adjective, the Blue Jackets sorely needed to win this game tonight.
Fueled by a momentum-turning goal by Vinny Prospal just 82 seconds into the third period, Columbus shrugged off a sluggish first period and assembled a solid 40 minutes of hockey when it mattered most. Sergei Bobrovsky made 24 saves, including a few timely ones, to hold down the fort in goal and let his teammates get to work.
This was the type of "on your toes" game that Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards wanted from his group, and he nearly got the full 60 minutes he was looking for. Columbus got itself into some first-period penalty trouble and gave up the first goal of the game (Philip Larsen power play goal at 4:13 of the second period), but its response after the goal was strong -- even after failing to convert on a two-minute 5-on-3 man advantage.
Kari Lehtonen played well enough to get two points for his side tonight, and made a miraculous save while reaching backward as the puck looked to be bounding over the goal line. Rather than get deflated by the Dallas goaltender and letting the 5-on-3 slip away, the Blue Jackets kept going. They finally broke through at 17:47 of the second period, as Derek Dorsett finished off a scintillating 3-on-2 rush that was started by an alert Artem Anisimov back-check.
In a 1-1 deadlock with 20 minutes to play, the Blue Jackets got an early third-period lead and got on their workmanlike, tight-checking game.
Prospal brought Nationwide Arena to life with an odd-angle shot from the goal line that hit a skate and squeaked behind Lehtonen, and the rest of the team followed suit. The Blue Jackets were able to get all four lines involved in the third period and keep the puck headed toward the Dallas end of the ice, and save for a few spurts in the waning moments, Columbus managed the puck well and didn't allow many quality chances.
Prospal's goal was the big moment in the game and the type of "puck luck" that the Blue Jackets were hoping to receive sooner than later. A heads-up pinch by James Wisniewski got the puck down low to Prospal, who took one quick look and slung the puck toward Lehtonen's feet. The weird carom found its way behind the Stars netminder and was the eventual game-winner.
- Bobrovsky was very good tonight, and Richards credited him with providing the team some energy at different periods of the game. His best might have been on Michael Ryder in the third period as Dallas pushed for the tying goal. The puck squirted to Ryder in the high slot and he had a clean look at Bobrovsky, who challenged Ryder and made a big right-pad save.
- Artem Anisimov was an absolute horse out there tonight for the Blue Jackets. He played 19:26, both special teams, picked up an assist on the Dorsett goal due to some hard work and won 10 face-offs -- second only to Dallas' Jamie Benn in the game.
- Ryan Johansen is getting better with each game, and tonight might have been his strongest yet. He played 15:43 and was a +1 on the night, and fired two shots on goal. His biggest contribution, though, was causing havoc at the top of Lehtonen's crease on the go-ahead goal. He's hungry on the puck, playing in tough areas and isn't afraid to make plays.
- Wisniewski (25:12) and Jack Johnson (26:08), two of the NHL's leaders in TOI, played a big role in the outcome and were solid on the penalty kill. They were a combined +2 and Johnson had a team-high four shots on goal.
- Loved the confidence from Dorsett in finishing off the odd-man rush on the 1-1 goal. He got himself into a shooting position, called for the puck, and got a perfect pass from Fedor Tyutin at the top of the left circle. Dorsett ripped it blocker side on Lehtonen in stride, and gave the Blue Jackets a huge lift at just the right time.
at Minnesota Wild
Tuesday, 8 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: CD102.5 FM & BlueJackets.com