Ryan Johansen seems to have a knack for scoring game-winning goals, and that’s music to the ears of Blue Jackets fans.
The 19-year-old rookie center returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch against the Blackhawks and put together perhaps the finest performance of his young NHL career, leading the Blue Jackets to a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets. He got things going right off the top, scoring his fourth goal of the season just 53 seconds into the game.
Using hulking Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien as a screen, Johansen picked the top corner over goaltender Ondrej Pavelec with a wicked slap shot. Before the crowd of 15,581 at Nationwide Arena could get settled in their seats, they were already up and out of them. It was one of the most tidy defensive efforts by the Blue Jackets this season, limiting most of Winnipeg’s 36 shots to the perimeter and allowing Mason to see pucks all night long.
It was 1-0 heading into the third period until Johansen struck again. Vinny Prospal, playing on the left side of the No. 2 line with Johansen and Mark Letestu, scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone and barged into the Jets zone. Prospal curled a centering pass from the goal line and it find Johansen’s stick, and he made no mistake on the back hand.
The goal was Johansen’s third game-winner of the year, ranking him second in the NHL behind only Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has the winner in all three Blue Jackets victories this season, and is tied for the team lead in goals with five.
Columbus earned its first win in three games with a little drama at the end. Mark Stuart tallied shorthanded at the 16:15 mark of the third period, and Jets coach Claude Noel called Pavelec to the bench for an extra attacker with just under two minutes remaining. The Blue Jackets held off the late charge, and earned their fifth straight victory over the Jets.
The Jets mustered some momentum late in the first period, and it carried over into the middle frame. Mason made a terrific save on Nik Antropov with the Jets on an odd-man rush, maintaining a 1-0 lead for the Blue Jackets.
Johansen’s second goal was huge for the Blue Jackets, who were seeking rewards from their numerous scoring chances. Pavelec kept the Jets in the game, but the 2-0 goal ended up being the turning point of the game. The slick backhander through Pavelec’s pads was the dagger in tonight’s game.
- The Blue Jackets ended a three-game losing skid with tonight’s win, the last victory coming Oct. 30 vs. Anaheim at Nationwide Arena. Columbus also scored the first goal of the game for the fifth time this season, and is now 9-5-0 all-time against the Winnipeg franchise, including a 5-2-0 mark at home.
- James Wisniewski picked up his first assist in three games with a helper on Johansen’s first goal. He has five assists in eight games this season. He had two blocked shots tonight to give him 20 his last six games. With 25:44 of ice time tonight, he has played in 25-plus minutes in all but one game this season.
- It’s been a crazy 48 hours for Nikita Nikitin. He was acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Blues on Friday, drove from Missouri to Ohio and took the morning skate today. He made his Blue Jackets debut tonight and had a helper on Johansen’s second goal. It was his first point in nine games, as he last had an assist Apr. 5, 2011 vs. Colorado as a member of the Blues.
- Mason was absolutely stellar tonight, and nearly made a ridiculous save on the only Winnipeg goal. He stopped 35-of-36 shots to earn his third win of the season - his first win since stopping 19-of-20 shots Oct. 30 vs. Anaheim. He is now 2-0-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and .980 save percentage in two games against the Jets.
- Someone has yet to find Prospal’s “off” button. He’s picked up points in three-straight games after notching an assist on Johansen’s second goal. He has points in 11 of 16 games this season and leads the club in points with 5-9-14 in 16 games. Dating back to last season he has collected 14-23-37 the last 45 games. In 55 career games against the Winnipeg franchise, he has recorded 21-38-59.
vs. Minnesota Wild
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, OH
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: CD102.5 FM & BlueJackets.com