It could be said very simply: the Blue Jackets needed a night like this.
With a playoff-hungry and desperate San Jose Sharks club in town, Columbus stormed out of the gates and put the doubt in their opponents’ mind as they often speak of doing. On a night full of milestones, the Blue Jackets scored four times in the first period and rolled to a 6-3 win in front of 14,625 at Nationwide Arena.
The list ran long, too: Jeff Carter (playing career game No. 500) scored his second hat trick in 17 games, Steve Mason (38 saves) passed Marc Denis for first all-time in wins by a Blue Jackets goaltender, and R.J. Umberger catalyzed his team with a Gordie Howe hat trick in the first period. The end result was Columbus’ first win in the season series against the Sharks, and a devastating defeat for the visitors tonight.
Umberger opened the scoring at 4:55 of the first period, burying the rebound off a Grant Clitsome point shot with three Sharks defensemen all over him. Carter scored his first of the night on a laser from the slot at 6:51, and Rick Nash followed with his team-leading 20th at 15:18 – at which point Sharks head coach Todd McLellan elected to give Antti Niemi the rest of the night off. Thomas Greiss entered the game and yielded a back-breaker on Carter’s second goal, a slick re-direct off a Vinny Prospal slap pass at 19:30.
Joe Thornton and Logan Couture struck for two goals in 26 seconds early in the second period, pulling San Jose within 4-2 and forcing Todd Richards to call time out to settle his troops. The Blue Jackets answered with an authoritative end to the middle frame, and got a huge power-play goal from David Savard just over five minutes later.
Carter’s hat trick goal was set up by a brilliant Nash pass across the crease with Greiss unable to get back in position. As the hats rained down to the ice, the Blue Jackets took control of the hockey game and received a standing ovation from the home crowd as the seconds ticked away.
Two intertwined events helped the Blue Jackets calm down and regain their momentum in the second period tonight. After Couture scored his 26th goal of the season at 5:37 of the period, Richards elected to use his 30-second timeout and get the Blue Jackets back in order. It was a 4-2 game at that point and the Sharks were beginning to tilt the ice. Ryane Clowe’s double-minor for cross-checking and unsportsmanlike conduct put the red-hot Columbus power play on the ice for four minutes not two, and Savard’s second of the year during the second two minute penalty was the backbreaker for San Jose.
Carter’s three goals tonight were his first in six games as he last scored Feb. 7 vs. Minnesota. He has points in four of the last five games (3-3-6), as well as points in six of the last nine (5-3-8) after being held to 0-1-1 the previous seven games. He has recorded 5-2-7 in eight career games against San Jose.
Umberger snapped a four-game goalless skid with his 10th of the season in the first period. He had last scored Feb. 11 at Minnesota. He added an assist on Nash’s goal. He has points in back-to-back games and has collected 7-11-18 the last 29 games after being held to 3-4-7 the first 26 games of the season.
Derick Brassard has points in three-straight games after notching a pair of assists on the night. He has points in seven of the last 10 games (4-6-10) and has 9-12-21 the last 28 games after being held to 2-3-5 the first 24 games of the season.
Prospal recorded three assists on the night to give him points in six of the last 10 games. It marked his first three-point game since Nov. 21 vs. Calgary, a span of 39 games. He has 1-7-8 during that stretch after being held pointless the previous nine games.
Nash has goals in back-to-back games after scoring his 20th goal of the season tonight. He added an assist for his second multi-point game in the last six games after recording one the previous 17 games. He has points in seven of the last nine games (3-6-9), has 7-8-15 the last 20 games and 16-14-30 the last 42 games.
vs. Colorado Avalanche
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Friday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com