BLUE JACKETS 4 | AVALANCHE 3
Perhaps the only positive the Blue Jackets could take out of Saturday’s lopsided loss in Glendale was that they had another game 24 hours later.
They took advantage of the opportunity to redeem themselves in a big way, and it was quite the poetic ending to a wild hockey game in Denver tonight.
David Savard did not have the best start to the game, turning the puck over in the slot right to Jerome Iginla on the first shift leading to an early goal, but his goal with 1:01 left in regulation gave the Blue Jackets a lead and two much needed points.
Columbus’ 4-3 victory over the Avalanche was a strong bounce-back after Saturday and, hopefully, a spring board for the remaining two games of this road trip. Curtis McElhinney picked up his second consecutive victory and was particularly solid in the third period when the Avalanche had a few sustained bursts in the Blue Jackets end of the rink.
But tonight, it was timely scoring and more solid work on the penalty kill that helped the Blue Jackets make up some ground in the playoff race.
After the opening goal by Iginla, Brandon Dubinsky got Columbus on the board with a sweet re-direction of a Cody Goloubef shot from the right wing boards (waist-high, at that) to tie the game at 1-1 - the 100th goal of this NHL career. Early in the second period, Dubinsky scored goal No. 101 on a sick wrist shot from the left circle, capitalizing on a fortunate bounce off the dasher and beating Semyon Varlamov under the crossbar and in.
Dubinsky was outstanding for Columbus, logging 20:25 in the game with five shots and plenty of time on the penalty kill. The two goals scored were his first two of the season after missing the first 26 games due to abdominal surgery.
The Avalanche had plenty of answers tonight, the first coming from captain Gabriel Landeskog at 5:25 of the second period to make it a 2-2 game.
Just 2:25 later, a beautiful combination play between the top line of Scott Hartnel, Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen gave Columbus a 3-2 lead. Foligno spotted Hartnell, who swung a hard pass to the front where a wide open Johansen buried his third goal in as many games.
Colorado again answered, getting a wrap-around goal from Cody McLeod that deflected off Savard on its way in, setting up for a third period that was nearly 20 minutes complete before the Blue Jackets broke the tie.
“It was a tough second period, but a solid finish nonetheless,” McElhinney said. “It was a tough start to the year for me, so getting results now for the team feels great.”
The Blue Jackets put their penalty kill to the test in the third period when Johansen was tagged for hooking with 12:40 to go and the Avalanche buzzing in the offensive zone. But McElhinney and the penalty killers - Dubinsky and Matt Calvert in particular - did a tremendous job denying the Avalanche many quality opportunities and not allowing the home team to build any momentum down the stretch. From that point, the Blue Jackets were the better team and once again, it was their penalty kill stepping up in a big moment to get the job done.
at Dallas Stars
Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET
American Airlines Center