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Postgame Hat Trick: Blue Jackets overcome adversity to clinch playoff bid

Columbus battles way into another postseason berth

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

The texts, comments and jokes rolled in as soon as the New York Rangers scored to tie the Blue Jackets at 2 with 6.1 seconds left on Friday night.

The gist: "They don't make it easy, do they?"

It's true. Easy doesn't seem to exist for this Columbus team, but save your texts and comments. 

It's no joke. The Blue Jackets are playoff bound for the third year in a row.

Video: Torts on playoff clinching win

Columbus rebounded from what could have been a devastating late goal by the Rangers to earn the win in the shootout and get the two points needed to return to the postseason.

Head coach John Tortorella admitted he was nervous going into this one, and it was frankly a crazy game in Madison Square Garden. Alexandar Georgiev starred in net throughout for the Rangers, Columbus rallied and took the lead on an Artemi Panarin goal, and then the late tally happened.

But through it all, as it has all year, Columbus stuck with it, and now the race for the Stanley Cup is on.

Here are three observations from the victory, the 46th of the year for Columbus, second all-time in franchise history.

1. Battling back: Let's just start with that adversity again. When Pavel Buchnevich fired toward the net as the clock wound down under 15 seconds, Scott Harrington made what appeared to be a crucial, game-saving block.

And then all hell broke loose. Harrington couldn't find the puck in his equipment and ended up spitting it out toward the goal line. Buchnevich recollected it and just threw a puck toward the net.

It was more a centering pass than a shot, but goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was resettling himself after the initial attempt and the puck, amid the chaos, went off his pad and into the net. A mere 6.1 seconds from being playoff bound, the Jackets were tied at 2. 

Bobrovsky quickly shook it off, though, and made two big early stops in overtime on Rangers leading scorer Mika Zibanejad, who was excellent on the night. 

"I'd rather take the 2-1 win, save the medicine for the heart, but it is what it is," Bobrovsky said. "We got it done in the shootout, and we are happy."

The whole team, of course, followed suit. Columbus had some great chances in overtime itself, then won the shootout behind a goal by Panarin and Bobrovsky's three saves.

Video: CBJ@NYR: Bobrovsky sends Blue Jackets to playoffs

Solidering through adversity has been a theme for this Blue Jackets team, so of course they had to finish off the playoff berth through the most Blue Jackets way possible.

"We've made everything interesting all year," captain Nick Foligno said. "I'm really proud of the guys for sticking with it after a fluky one and finding a way to get the job done in extra innings."

2. A deadline win: The Blue Jackets qualified for the playoffs on April 5, but you can trace this win back to late February.

Facing a decision to trade his upcoming free agents or keep them and try to win, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen went for the latter option. While keeping free agents-to-be Panarin and Bobrovsky, Kekalainen also decided to bolster his roster, bringing in forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel among others.

It was a bold move -- each of the four players the Jackets traded for at the deadline will be unrestricted free agents -- but it paid off on this night. Dzingel scored the Blue Jackets' first goal, his biggest tally with the team, while Panarin scored in the third period and the shootout. Bobrovsky was also excellent throughout the night, with 25 saves, many of the spectacular variety.

"Jarmo knew what he was doing," Foligno said with a smile in the locker room. "No, that's why we kept them. That's what they bring. Bread is a game-breaker. Look what he did. He gave us the lead, and we should have held on to it, but we didn't, and he scores a big one in the shootout. Bob comes up with unbelievable save after unbelievable save, too."

Time will tell just how far this Jackets team will go in the postseason. But with the best scorer and best goaltender in franchise history on the team, the Jackets will have a chance to make a run here.

3. Texier debuts: It seemed like everyone was impressed with the debut of rookie forward Alexandre Texier, a list that includes Tortorella.

"Oh jeez," the head coach said after the game. "I think he was probably the calmest one on the bench. I thought he made plays through people, had no fear at all. I have to look short-term, but I also look long-term with the kids. We have to. But that's an interesting one there, boy, as far as how he handled himself in his first game in Madison Square Garden under these circumstances. He didn't have any fear at all."

Texier showed his strong offensive instincts throughout the night, putting three shots on goal and nearly scoring a goal in the first period. He cut behind the net while the Blue Jackets had the puck and popped out at the post, getting open for a pass from Zach Werenski, but Georgiev slid over to make a nice stop.

The 19-year-old Frenchman was also not afraid to take the body or, as Tortorella said, be confident enough to make a play in traffic. 

He'll likely keep growing as time goes on, but it appears the Jackets have a good one.

"I was a little bit nervous from the start, but it's part of the first game," he said. "I felt really good first shift."

Perhaps his biggest moment of nerves came when he was given the traditional rookie lap, as he had to take the ice for warmups ahead of the rest of the team.

Tweet from @JacketsInsider: Have a lap, Alexandre Texier #CBJ

"I was nervous," he conceded for the lap. "I didn't want to miss the net or do something wrong, but it was good. 10 minutes before the game, the captain told me, 'You go alone,' and I was like, 'OK.' But it was fun."

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