BLUE JACKETS 2 | JETS 4
Nine seconds into the game, the Blue Jackets were fighting an uphill battle.
The Winnipeg Jets capitalized on a pair of breakdowns in defensive coverage, and one quick pass from captain Andrew Ladd later, Bryan Little was one-on-one with Sergei Bobrovsky and he made no mistake. The Jets led 1-0 before most folks had taken their seats in Nationwide Arena, but the Blue Jackets managed to get themselves back in the game a few minutes later.
With Jets forward Michael Frolik in the box for high-sticking, Jordan Leopold scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket off a nifty turn-and-shoot move from the high slot, beating goaltender Michael Hutchinson far-side at 3:42.
From that point forward, the Blue Jackets played a solid first period and seemed to get their legs back under them. They fought the Jets’ hard-charging forecheck with a hard-charging forecheck of their own and drew some penalties, but were only able to cash in on their first opportunity of the game (the Leopold goal).
And in the second period, an odd and confounding sequence ended up being the difference in the game.
The Blue Jackets were a man up, then it was 4-on-4 after Scott Hartnell was whistled for a questionable goaltender interference penalty (Hutchinson did well to convince the officials that he was bumped). Winnipeg scored shortly after the 4-on-4 became an abbreviated power play, with big Dustin Byfuglien feeding Evander Kane on the door step for the go-ahead goal at 16:25 of the second.
On the next shift, it appeared as though the Blue Jackets would go to the power play but wires were crossed on the play, leaving Ladd alone in the slot to give the Jets a 3-1 lead. The penalty was instead going to Columbus and several players on the ice had stopped playing, but Little found Ladd from below the goal line for the Jets’ second goal in 31 seconds.
Once again it was a different Blue Jackets team in the third period. They were skating, winning battles and creating chances using their forecheck. Ryan Johansen’s eighth goal of the season brought Columbus within a goal at 3-2 with 10:13 to play, and despite a bevy of opportunities down the stretch, the equalizer was not to be had.
Cam Atkinson was stopped on a breakaway in the first period and hit a goal post in the third period. Leopold hit the crossbar in the third period and Jack Skille drew iron in the final frame, as well, but as Todd Richards said post-game, “goal posts don’t count as goals.”
“I thought for two periods, we played a tentative game,” Richards said. “It was a different feeling (on the bench) in the third period. We were moving out feet and doing good things.”
The last thing the Blue Jackets could afford in a 1-1 game without many quality chances was a sequence like they had late in the second period. Back-to-back goals by Kane and Little tasked them with another rally in the third period, and tonight, that 31-second span proved to be the turning point of the game.
vs. Vancouver Canucks
Friday, 7 p.m. ET