BLUE JACKETS (18-16-7) 4, BLUES (23-15-2)
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OH
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards walked into locker room after the first period and told his team that this was "a man's game" tonight - and as one could expect in mid-April with postseason aspirations hanging on the line, it was a confrontational-yet-capitvating display of hockey at its highest emotional level.
There was no dancing around it, either: this was a must-win game for the Blue Jackets as their total games played accumulate and other teams in the hunt continue to do them no favors. One week after suffering a disappointing loss to the same Blues at Scottrade Center, it was the Blue Jackets who not-so-kindly returned the favor.
And though the Blues got on the scoreboard first with a fluky goal from Kevin Shattenkirk just 86 seconds into the game, the Blue Jackets absorbed it, brushed it off and got back on the horse. Once they settled into their game, they found a rhythm and kept bringing it right to the Blues, who looked to reach their energy peak very early in the game. The Blue Jackets sensed it and took full advantage - finishing their checks, supporting the puck and making it an exasperating task for St. Louis to get the puck back.
Perhaps the most important thing was going into the first intermission on even terms, and a nifty re-direct from Cam Atkinson made sure that would be the case at 14:32 of the opening period. The goal withstood a review by the NHL's "War Room" in Toronto, which brought even more life to a rocking atmosphere inside Nationwide Arena.
Artem Anisimov and Ryan Johansen scored goals less than five minutes apart in the second period to really deflate the Blues, who were running on fumes and unable to match the high pace of the Blue Jackets. And when the snarl kicked up a notch in the third period, Richards said he was most fond of his team rallying around each other and not getting pushed around by a frustrated St. Louis club.
Oh, and the by the way, Marian Gaborik scored again. His third goal in a Blue Jackets sweater was the final tally of the night and it was a beauty: Vinny Prospal hit Mark Letestu in stride through the neutral zone, and a 2-on-1 with capped off by a slick Gaborik deflection into the top shelf at 1:21 of the third period.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves to pick up his 15th victory of the season.
Tonight's turning point came with the back-to-back goals from Anisimov and Johansen in the second period, and it was clearly the defining stretch of the game. The Blues were hanging around in a 1-1 game despite some uncharacteristic sloppiness with the puck, but it did not last long. Two quick strikes put the game away for Columbus and turned the Blues' swagger into saltiness.
- Columbus was 5-for-5 in man down situations on Friday. The Blue Jackets have now killed off 29 of their last 32 penalties (90.6%) at Nationwide Arena and rank seventh in the NHL with a home ice PK pct. of 87.7.
- The Blue Jackets were 25-for-48 in the face-off circle vs. the Blues and have now won 256 of their last 466 draws (54.9%). Columbus is tied for sixth place in the NHL with an overall winning pct. of 51.5 this season.
- Bobrovsky is now 11-3-5 with a 1.68 GAA and a .944 SV% at Nationwide Arena in 2012-13.
- Johansen made his 100th career NHL appearance on Friday and scored a goal for the second consecutive game. Johansen was also 6-for-9 in the face-off circle vs. St. Louis.
- Gaborik netted a third period goal on Friday and has now tallied 3-3-6 in five games as a Blue Jacket.
at Minnesota Wild
8 p.m. Saturday
Xcel Energy Center | St. Paul, MN
* #CBJBWW Social Media watch party in Marion, OH