Coaches grow weary of having to utter the phrase “we deserved a better fate tonight.”
Scott Arniel’s team did well to prevent that tonight, as the Blue Jackets played one of their most complete games of the season, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in a shootout in front of a rocking crowd of 15,808 at Nationwide Arena.
Mark Letestu, Rick Nash and James Wisniewski all beat Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo in the shootout, making it three consecutive shootout victories for Columbus – the first time that’s happened since Dec. 6, 2010-Jan. 14, 2011.
Columbus was efficient in its puck management across all three zones, and played tidy game in front of Steve Mason who was absolutely terrific, making 30 saves for his first victory since Nov. 12 vs. the Winnipeg Jets. This was a Canucks team riding high coming into tonight, and had won nine-straight meetings against the Blue Jackets – but a poor start plagued them and constant pressure from the home side rattled them.
Jeff Carter opened the scoring with another power-play goal at 10:32 of the first period. Wisniewski, on the half-wall, feathered a pass down low to Carter who was camped in front of Luongo. Carter slid a backhander underneath Luongo’s right pad for his sixth goal of the season. That was the only Blue Jackets’ tally in regulation, but they came oh-so-close on numerous occasions.
It was a 1-0 game for much of the night, but Maxim Lapierre capitalized on one of the Blue Jackets’ few miscues midway through the third period. Chris Higgins got away with tripping Nash in the neutral zone, then he and Lapierre converged on an odd-man situation down low. Lapierre got just enough stick on the puck to bank it off Mason’s shoulder and into the net, tying the game at 8:03.
With the win, the Blue Jackets snapped a three-game winless skid at home and are now 7-5-3 in the last 15 games overall.
Mason made a tremendous save on Canucks winger Mason Raymond with just under seven minutes to play, but remained on the ice in what looked to be serious pain. After club athletic trainer Mike Vogt came out to check on him, Mason left the game at 13:14 and Curtis Sanford assumed the net.
Arniel was asked after the game if he felt like his team was cursed – seeing Mason play so well throughout the game only to leave with an injury. But thankfully it was only serious cramping, and Mason returned to the game with 3:44 left in the third period. The Blue Jackets players said it fired up the bench down the stretch, and even more so when Mason made a big save on Cody Hodgson in the shootout to give Columbus the upper hand.
The Blue Jackets scored the first goal of the game for the 15th time this season. The club is now 8-5-2 in those games, while going 5-1-1 when leading after the first period and 7-2-1 when leading after two periods.
The win was the first for the Jackets over the Canucks since Oct. 5, 2009, when they won 5-3 at Vancouver. It’s the first win at Nationwide Arena since Dec. 1, 2009, when the Jackets won 3-2.
Carter has goals in three-straight games after scoring his sixth of the season tonight. The goals come after he went six games without a goal. He has collected 6-2-8 the last 11 games after being held pointless the previous six games.
Wisniewski has points in three-straight games and five of the last six after recording an assist on Carter’s goal. He has registered 0-6-6 the last six games, as well as 1-15-16 the last 21 games. He has played 25-plus minutes in all but five games this season, including 25:29 tonight.
Letestu picked up his first assist in 24 games with a helper on Carter’s goal. He last had an assist Oct. 8 at Calgary as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nash scored the shootout game-deciding goal. He is now 26-of-64 (40.1 percent) in shootouts all-time with nine game-deciding goals.
vs. Los Angeles Kings Canucks
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com