The Blue Jackets claimed a decisive 7-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Friday in their first game of this year's Traverse City Prospect Tournament. The team was led by two goals and three assists from Vitaly Abramov. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Paul Bittner each added two goals of their own and goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks stood tall making 19 saves on 21 shots.
While games in this tournament can have a more physical edge, the Jackets showed that they could match their opponent's physicality but beat them with skill. The team remained a composed bunch and played a fluid, fast game.
"I was really pleased," head coach John Madden said. "There wasn't a guy that didn't play hard., they all played their role. It was a complete game by everybody. The first game is always a little jittery for everybody including coaches and management. I though everybody played really well and gelled pretty well so quickly."
The first period had the Jackets scoring early. On the second shift of the game, Paul Bittner took a cross-rink pass from Kole Sherwood and then set up on the left side of the goal. On his third attempt, the 20-year-old buried the opening goal 1:25 into play.
Bobby MacIntyre built on the Jackets lead just over four minutes later. A flurry of shots resulted in the puck bouncing off Dallas' netminder Landon Bow's mask and one of the newly signed Monsters got it into the net to put the Jackets up 2-0.
After the Jackets took back to back penalties, the Stars capitalized on the two-man advantage to halve the Jackets lead. But, as the period neared its final five minutes, the Jackets set up for a strong shift in the Stars zone. Perimeter shots from Jacob Graves and Doyle Somersby helped stretch the defense before Abramov potted his first score of the tournament to make it 3-1.
The second period was a story of trips to the penalty box with seven players in total having an extended break from the ice. And there were plenty of post-whistle scuffles as the Stars sought to get under the Jackets' skin.
"Teams try to shut down their opponents' best players and the best way to do it is put your body on them," Calvin Thurkaf said. "They were trying to get us rattled so we'd start to get nervous. But we didn't let it bother us and it ended up well."
The two teams went on to trade goals. Dubois scored his second goal of the night and extended the Jackets lead to 4-1, before Dallas answered back two minutes later.
But as the period wore on, the Jackets reclaimed ownership of their style of play and Abramov notched his second goal of the game when got a shot off a Thurkauf rebound and placed the puck perfectly over Bow to make it 5-2 to end the second.
A back and forth third period ended in an exciting five minutes. A composed Jackets squad pounced when Dallas pulled their goaltender for the extra skater. First, off an Abramov feeder, Bittner scored his second of the night into the empty net and then Dubois deflected a Thurkauf pass to get his second goal and cement the final score of 7-2. The assist was Thurkauf's third of the game.
In total, the line of Thurkauf (0-3-3), Dubois (2-0-2) and Abramov (2-3-5) combined for four goals and ten points total.
"It was a fun game, and we played a good game," Abramov said. "I tried to show my best game, I thought the whole team showed their best game. It was a good start. We won, but we want to keep going the same way and win the tournament."
Next up, the Jackets face Minnesota Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.