BLUE JACKETS 4 | DEVILS 1
The Blue Jackets' roster features several players who have spent time in the Eastern Conference prior to this season, and the message was unanimous: when playing the New Jersey Devils, you absolutely have to be patient.
BLUE JACKETS 4 | DEVILS 1
For decades, the Devils have made a living out of out-waiting opponents and coercing them into playing their style of hockey. No matter who's behind the bench or who's on the ice, New Jersey is known all too well for playing its structured, systematic brand - and the Blue Jackets fought back tonight with a structured game of their own.
Both teams were the embodiment of structure in the opening 20 minutes. It was a fully-engaged chess match by both coaches, who matched lines and implored their players to check relentlessly at both ends of the rink. The result was a rather sleepy first period, but things started to open up in the second.
Michael Ryder's fourth goal of the season and second power play tally opened the scoring at 6:24 of the second period and it was as broken as a play could get; the Jackets appeared to be out of danger but Jaromir Jagr wound up with the puck at the bottom of the circle, and fed Ryder at the dot for a high wrist shot that hit the crossbar and dropped in behind Sergei Bobrovsky.
Just over three minutes later, the Blue Jackets began to take control of the game.
With Jagr in the box for holding, the Jackets' power play went to work. James Wisniewski - who was, let's say, very ill this morning and during the game - got the puck through traffic and to Cory Schneider, who made the first save but left the rebound in the blue paint. Dubinsky drove the net and won the battle, slamming the puck into the net at 9:56 and tying the game at 1-1.
Later in the second period, it was Cam Atkinson joining the fray and scoring the game winner on a tremendous individual effort. He knocked down two Devils clearing attempts, kept the play alive at the blue line and walked the puck to the slot, unleashing a sneaky backhander that eluded Schneider on the blocker side. It was a 2-1 lead for Columbus that would not be relinquished, but Wisniewski added an insurance marker at 4:12 of the third and Marian Gaborik iced it with an empty-netter at 19:35.
The Devils seemed content to take their 1-0 lead and go home, but the Blue Jackets were willing to hang tight and keep playing their game until they broke through. Two unanswered goals gave them the all-important advantage heading into the third period, but Atkinson's goal was not only the difference but the dagger for New Jersey.
1. BRANDON DUBINSKY (CBJ)
This was an emphatic performance from No. 17 in blue tonight, one of the club's most vocal and passionate leaders both on and off the ice. He scored a big power play goal, played 17:24 in all situations and was +3, but we'll all remember his response to a hit by Anton Volchenkov late in the game. Not only was he standing up for himself, but his reaction let everyone know that despite a 3-1 lead, the Blue Jackets weren't about to take their foot off the pedal.
2. SERGEI BOBROVSKY (CBJ)
He wasn't tested as often as he has been in recent games, but Bobrovsky was there when called upon tonight and made some very good saves in the first period to keep it scoreless through 20. He finished with 24 saves and was instrumental in keeping the house tidy while his teammates started the rally at the other end.
3. JAMES WISNIEWSKI (CBJ)
Kind of tough luck for the guy today, eh? Battles sickness all day, gets into the lineup, picks up three points and is named the third star? Brutal! All kidding aside, Wisniewski was very strong for the Blue Jackets on the back end and engineered the first and third goals. He logged 19:18 and was +2 on the night.
VS. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
FRIDAY, 7 P.M.