BLUE JACKETS 3 | STARS 1
AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER
The Blue Jackets turned their crystal clear situation into a picture perfect result.
Win and you're in, as they say in this business. That's what the Jackets, who started this rescheduled game with a 1-0 lead before the puck even dropped, were faced with but standing in their way was a Dallas Stars team that needed points just as badly. Strangely enough, the 2008-09 edition of the Blue Jackets clinched their playoff berth in their 80th regular season game, on the road in the Central time zone.
Maybe this is all pure coincidence (in fact, it likely is), but the same thing happened tonight at American Airlines Center.
Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu (power play) tallied first-period goals for the Jackets, giving them a commanding 3-0 lead after 20 minutes and it was more than enough for a zoned-in Sergei Bobrovsky. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner was outstanding, and even more impressive considering he started Tuesday night's emotional game against Phoenix. He had 15 saves to his credit through 40 minutes, but the Stars poured it on in the third period while fighting for their own playoff lives.
Dallas out-shot the Jackets 18-2 in the third period, firing as many pucks as possible toward Bobrovsky but they managed just one. On the power play in the third period (with 12 minutes left in regulation), Stars coach Lindy Ruff pulled goaltender Tim Thomas for an extra attacker - giving Dallas a 6-on-4 advantage down 3-0. The gamble worked as Trevor Daley got Dallas on the board, and that was the end of the scoring on this night.
Bobrovsky locked it down from there, making 17 saves in the third period and helping the Blue Jackets secure their second playoff berth in franchise history. Tonight's win was their 42nd of the season - breaking a franchise record set by the 08-09 team - and they still have two games to play while holding the No. 1 wild card in the Eastern Conference.
Todd Richards, who's seen his team go through many ups and downs in his two years on the job, wants his players to continue to focus on their goal, which is to climb as high in the standings as possible.
"This is a great accomplishment for our team and for our guys," Richards said. "But to me, this is just the first step. When we set out back in September, the first thing we talked about is winning the Stanley Cup - but first, you have to make the playoffs. It's always about looking up; we're in the seventh spot (right now) and we're going to try and move up.
"The players know...we talked about it as soon as they game ended. Everybody's contributed, and even guys who aren't here right now who are a big part of this. It's a huge step for our organization, but to me, it's just a step. But we're ready to try and take the next step."
The Blue Jackets' emphatic, pace-setting first period got them off on the right foot and allowed them to play this game their way (at least for 40 minutes). This was a weird game to figure out, with both teams having played the night before and one of them starting with a 1-0 lead, but the Jackets started on time and made sure they left Texas with a ticket to the dance.
1. SERGEI BOBROVSKY (CBJ)
Bob was Bob tonight, and his masterful performance helped the Jackets back into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
2. ARTEM ANISIMOV (CBJ)
Big game from the big rangy center tonight, scoring his 22nd goal early in the first period and helping the Jackets roar out to a much-needed fast start.
3. MARK LETESTU (CBJ)
Another smart, solid two-way game from Letestu and his goal (11th on the year) made it a 3-0 game in the first period.
AT TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
FRIDAY, 7:30 P.M.
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