The Blue Jackets weren’t on their game in the first period, they got better in the second, and saved their best work for the final act tonight in Boston.
Riding a four-game losing streak coming in, they knew that running the table before the All-Star break next week was their best hope for staying alive in the playoff race. The first step was a matchup with the cruising Boston Bruins, who had won five straight before tonight’s meeting with the Blue Jackets - and they passed the test with a 3-1 victory thanks to a tremendous third period.
BLUE JACKETS 3 | BRUINS 1
Curtis McElhinney, making his first start since facing these same Bruins on Dec. 27 in Columbus, made 34 saves to pick up the win in a building that hadn’t seen a Blue Jackets victory in more than five years - since Jan. 21, 2010 in fact when they scored a late third-period winner.
Sound familiar? It’s almost exactly what happened tonight.
Ryan Johansen and Carl Soderberg exchanged goals in the first period, and that score stood up until the dying minutes of regulation.
In a 1-1 tie with less than five minutes to play, the Blue Jackets went to work in the Boston zone and put some of their best shifts of the game together, eventually leading to the game-winning goal. Alexander Wennberg found Cam Atkinson in the slot, and after Atkinson was able to settle down a bouncing puck, he got a quick low shot through to Tukka Rask where Matt Calvert was in perfect position to clean up the rebound at the back post.
The Blue Jackets took their second and final lead of the game with 3:03 to play, and they managed it as well as one could ask down the stretch. They got better as the game got older, and didn't give the Bruins anything with the extra attacker on, eventually getting another goal from Calvert - this one into an empty net - with 37.3 ticks left on the clock.
Calvert scored twice tonight and was a difference maker for Columbus despite playing with a stomach bug that caused him to miss Friday’s morning skate. He was not available to speak to the media post-game for that very reason.
It wasn’t just one single moment tonight. It was the entire third period and the way the Blue Jackets managed and executed that turned this game in their favor. They played well last night against the New York Rangers and did not get the desired result, but tonight, they played with purpose once again and picked up two much-needed points. Their turnovers were minimal, their decisions and passes were crisp, and they got saves when needed from McElhinney.
at Minnesota Wild
Monday, 8 p.m. ET
Xcel Energy Center
St. Paul, MN