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Power play helps Jackets snap skid

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets and Flyers had the NHL's 11th and 8th-best power plays, respectively, heading into Friday night's contest in Philadelphia. So it’s not too surprising that special teams would impact the outcome.

But that’s actually quite an understatement after the two teams combined to score five power play goals, with the Jackets’ man advantage capitalizing at the right times to give Columbus its first win in 10 games.

The Blue Jackets had scored power play goals in seven of the nine games during their winless streak, but the power play was not a game-changer for a team struggling to score. The man advantage scored sporadically, offering a jolt when the team was struggling at 5-on-5 but never contributing to the momentum of the contest.

That was not the case in Philadelphia.

Columbus’ power play was 3-for-4 and registered eight shots on goal. The players that have carried the Jackets offensively were on full display, with Ryan Johansen registering a career-high four assists and Nick Foligno adding two more goals, one of those on the power play.

“I’m playing with some great players and getting some great opportunities, and I’m just trying to make the most of it,” said Foligno.

With injured players slowly returning to the lineup, James Wisniewski’s return last week had the potential to impact the power play the most, and he was up to the task Friday.

He opened the scoring with a power play goal in the first and netted the game-winner in the third on a 5-on-3 advantage, finding a loose puck at the side of the net and burying the rebound to restore a two-goal Jackets lead. The two goals were his first two of the season.

Far too often over the past three weeks, it was the Blue Jackets taking a bad penalty or making a bad decision to decide a game. Tonight it was Columbus pushing the pace of play, feeding off the power play momentum, and forcing the Flyers to make mistakes.

“We battled tonight for 60 minutes. Everybody put their body on the line, the goalie played great, and the power play was good, too,” said Scott Hartnell, who had one hit and blocked three shots in his first game back in Philadelphia.

The third least-penalized team in the NHL coming into the game, the Flyers were penalized four times on the night and paid dearly. The turning point of the contest came midway through the third when Sean Couturier hauled down Johansen in the neutral zone 37 seconds into a Jackets power play. Wisniewski would respond for Columbus on their fifth shot of that power play.

“We were doing the little things where you get rewarded," Johansen said. "When you play that responsible smart game you’re always in the right spot when you get those opportunities.”

There was commitment defensively and more engagement in the offensive zone, with the Jackets outshooting the Flyers 38-27. That hasn’t been the case of late, with the Jackets being on the wrong end of the shot counter and failing to dictate the action too often.

A big part of tonight's game was that they never trailed, getting an early lead, battling back when the Flyers got two equalizers and ultimately put the game away.

“It helps your confidence,” said coach Todd Richards about playing from in front. “Instead of chasing the game and looking up at the scoreboard, you’re in front.”

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