After a physical game and disappointing loss to the Ottawa Senators last night, the Blue Jackets returned to Nationwide Arena looking to continue their home streak and pick up two much-needed points.
Determined not to repeat last night’s mistakes, the desperation to start off on the right foot was evident and the Jackets accomplished what they set out to do; the first two shots on Pekka Rinne resulted in goals, giving the home team a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the first period.
Despite plenty of adversity (we'll get to that in a second), the Blue Jackets got the early lead and kept it, with plenty of credit to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 39 saves in his first shutout of the season.
“We just wanted to get that lead and get the first one as soon as we can, and to get a couple quick ones,” center Ryan Johansen said. “It was great. We just found a way to win tonight. It wasn’t our prettiest victory, but we’ll take it.”
The Blue Jackets started the second period (and ended the game) with four defensemen — both Cody Goloubef and Fedor Tyutin left the game with upper body injuries. Goloubef suffered a fractured jaw and was transported to Dublin Methodist Hospital for further treatment.
In the face of some long odds, the Jackets’ defense held tight and Bobrovsky was perfect. The Jackets' No. 1 netminder made plenty of memorable saves in the game, but he gave full credit to his defensemen for their effort on blocking shots and shooting lanes.
“The guys did a hell of a job in front of me,” Bobrovsky said. “I tried to help them a little bit with puck-handling but, other than that, I just played my game.”
It was certainly an all-around team effort tonight from Columbus, starting with a stellar first period.
Kerby Rychel passed to Gregory Campbell from behind the net and Campbell shot it straight past Predators goaltender Rinne for the 1-0 lead.
WATCH: BOBROVSKY'S HIGHLIGHT REEL SAVE ON JAMES NEAL
Only 1:41 later, with Brandon Saad crashing into the net, Johansen patiently held the puck, pulled it to Rinne’s right side and backhanded it into the net, doubling the advantage.
“I thought they really came at us,” Johansen said. “They did a lot of good things...we just tried to pack it in. You look at guys blocking shots. I’m proud of the guys, just the way we protected the house and we didn’t really give them any grade-A opportunities and then Bob, obviously, we all know the game he played tonight and a big reason they didn’t score a goal.”
Boone Jenner notched the Jackets' third goal, his team-leading 10th goal of the season, at 9:17 of the second period. Jenner took the initial shot off the rush, which hit Rinne’s pads and bounced back towards the falling Jenner, who found the rebound and swept it into the net, putting the Jackets ahead 3-0.
“We had a couple goals quick, we had a good start,” head coach John Tortorella said. “I thought the third goal was just a great play by Jenner. It’s such a great lesson as far as stopping when he has his first chance, and he stops and he bangs it in. I thought that was probably the biggest goal.”
The style and identity of the Columbus team — gritty, hard-nosed and resilient is starting to shine through. The team’s 26 blocked shots and perfect penalty kill (3-for-3) is proof of that.
The head coach said he was happy with the way the team played, but especially of the effort of his defense; Jack Johnson, David Savard, Ryan Murray and Kevin Connauton logged heavy minutes, and Savard led the group with 30:48 of ice time (a new career high).
“Those four that played, they seemed to me that they got stronger as the game went on,” Tortorella said. “Those four and Bob, you couldn’t ask for any more as far as how they handled themselves.
“We knew (Bobrovsky) was going to have to be a real important part of our game tonight if we we're gonna win that hockey game.”