BLUE JACKETS 3 | CANADIENS 2
The Blue Jackets had plenty of opportunities to let momentum slip away tonight in Montreal, but they simpled refused to let it happen.
FINAL: JACKETS 3 | CANADIENS 2
An early first-period goal by the Canadiens didn't phase them one bit, and instead, they re-grouped and executed a nifty play off the face-off for a shorthanded equalizer later in the period. Mark Letestu, on the right dot, won the draw forward and MacKenzie drove the net before Carey Price and the Montreal defense was ready. He slammed in his sixth goal since Jan. 23 (a span that included a three-game goal scoring streak) to pull the Jackets even at 1-1 and from there, the visitors were the better team.
Sergei Bobrovsky wasn't called upon as often as he's been in recent games, but he was strong between the pipes and kept the Blue Jackets afloat at times when the speedy Canadiens brought it with pace. And for the second time in three games, Jack Johnson jumped up in the rush and made something happen at a pivotal juncture in the proceedings.
He circled the wagons behind Price, found Blake Comeau in the slot and the rebound popped right to Brandon Dubinsky, who shoveled it into the net for a 2-1 Jackets lead.
Despite struggling on the power play (the Blue Jackets were 0-for-8 tonight, including two 5-on-3 chances), Columbus kept pushing ahead and carried a lead into the third period. The Canadiens tied it up midway through on a well-executed play between Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek, but the Jackets didn't blink.
And as they came down the stretch all tied at 2-2, all it took was one mistake...and Ryan Johansen was poised and ready to make Montreal pay for it.
Johansen, the lone forechecker up-ice, hawked Canadiens defenseman Jarred Tinordi and pounced on a gift-wrapped turnover. He broke in on Price, pulled it back and fired his 27th goal of the season through the blocking arm of Price, the go-ahead marker with 3:01 to play.
There were a few candidates for tonight's turning point, but we're going to go with the Johansen goal. It was a huge goal in a huge game, and it doesn't get much more pivotal than that.
1. RYAN JOHANSEN (CBJ)
A big night in the face-off circle, his first NHL fight with Pacioretty, the game-winning goal. Yeah, this was a pretty easy No. 1 star selection.
2. SERGEI BOBROVSKY (CBJ)
Bobrovsky was solid, and aside from a funky bounce on the Canadiens' first goal and a really nice shot by Vanek, you could say he was spotless. Nothing flashy, just effective, for Bob tonight.
3. BRANDON DUBINSKY (CBJ)
Impressive performance from Dubinsky tonight, who was reunited with Calvert and Atkinson prior to the game. He scored the go-ahead goal in the second period was a physical presence throughout.
VS. NEW YORK RANGERS
FRIDAY, 7 P.M.