BLUE JACKETS 4 | COYOTES 3 (OT)
What a shot. What a moment. What an atmosphere in Nationwide Arena.
The highs and lows experienced in the span of 10 minutes almost perfectly encapsulated exactly what the Blue Jackets are playing for: they held a 3-2 lead deep into the third period, saw the Coyotes tie it up with 14.6 seconds left, but collected themselves and delivered a huge overtime victory in their regular season home finale.
FINAL (OT): JACKETS 4, COYOTES 3
And it shouldn't be much of a surprise that 21-year-old Ryan Johansen, the Blue Jackets' go-to guy in the clutch, sealed the deal with his 32nd goal of the season with 1:27 remaining in sudden death overtime. It happened in a flash: the Coyotes turned the puck over on the rush, James Wisniewski saw Johansen flying up-ice and hit him with a perfect pass, and Johansen did the rest.
A couple of strides inside the blueline, Johansen ripped a quick wrister over the glove hand of Thomas Greiss, sending Nationwide Arena into bona fide pandemonium and bringing the home team within two points of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The victory was the Blue Jackets' 41st of the season, tying a franchise record set in 2008-09, and painting a crystal clear picture of what they need to do in their final three games.
"I'm real proud of the guys in here for sticking with it," Johansen said. "Wiz made a great pass up to me, and I just picked (my spot) far side and let it go. We tried to get as much pressure as we could, our forecheck got going in the second period. We did a good job of getting up in their face, and we started taking over the game when we did that."
Oh, wait...you mean there were three periods before all of this? Let's recap.
Boone Jenner opened the scoring at 8:15 of the first period, beating Greiss glove side on a neat pass from Nathan Horton. The Coyotes tied it up later in the period and took the lead with 2:07 left in the first, and the Blue Jackets had some work to do after a sluggish first period.
Mark Letestu drew Columbus even at 5:25 of the second, pouncing on a turnover in the high slot caused by line mate Artem Anisimov and ripping his 10th goal of the season inside the far post and in.
Blake Comeau scored what (at the time) was a huge goal, a sneaky little snap shot while he pulled up and waited for help inside the Phoenix blue line. Greiss simply missed it, and he was visibly disgusted with himself after yielding the go-ahead goal with 6:17 left in regulation. Thankfully for him, his teammates bailed him out and tied the game with 14.6 seconds left...but the Blue Jackets again had an answer, one that put them one step closer to where they want to go.
Wisniewski took a cross-checking penalty in the third period, a rare call in a game that featured disappearing whistles for most of the night. But the Blue Jackets had to come up big on the kill, and they did an excellent job shutting down anything the Coyotes tried to get going. The clutch penalty kill in the third period started to turn the game around.
1. RYAN JOHANSEN (CBJ)
Todd Richards called the overtime winner Johansen's "moment" in a season full of big ones for the rising star. He finished with a goal and an assist, but Jackets fans won't soon forget his 32nd goal of the season.
2. BLAKE COMEAU (CBJ)
After Horton left the game due to injury in the second period, Comeau elevated to play on the Johansen line and did a solid job. His go-ahead goal in the third period was a huge lift for the Jackets.
3. BOONE JENNER (CBJ)
Jenner started it off for the Jackets, scoring a big goal early in the game that salvaged an otherwise-poor opening period. He was a physical presence throughout, just as you'd expect.
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