TRAVERSE CITY -- The Blue Jackets took the ice in Traverse City as defending champions and took on the immediate challenge of facing a quality St. Louis Blues squad. Columbus started on the right note with a convincing 5-2 win.
The Blue Jackets had only two practices prior to their first game, and were neck-and-neck with their opponent through the first period before pulling away with four goals in the second half of the game.
“Our first two periods were a little sloppy, but we played well in the third,” said captain TJ Tynan. “We just have to mesh together a little bit better - I’m sure that will get better as we go on.”
Tynan did his part, scoring the Jackets' first goal just 38 seconds into the game, but as the team fought to find its groove, there was some penalty trouble; Kole Sherwood was whistled for hooking and Kerby Rychel for a high stick, the latter of which resulted in a power play goal for St. Louis, leaving the teams tied at 1-1 after the first period.
In the second period, St. Louis seemed to get going first, scoring five minutes in to take the lead and hold onto it until the 13:30 mark.
Defenseman Dillon Heatherington took a stick to the face that resulted in a double minor. On the power play, the Blue Jackets established a strong cycle in the offensive zone led by Sonny Milano, Michael Paliotta and Daniel Zaar, and Oliver Bjorkstrand finished off that crisp sequence with a power play goal to make it a 2-2 tie.
Less than a minute later, Tynan was part of what became the game winner when he provided an assist, along with Olivier LeBlanc, on newly-drafted Veeti Vainio’s goal.
The Blue Jackets and Blues each took two penalties in the second period, but Columbus gained the shot advantage after 40 minutes by a margin of 22-16.
Both teams played a physical game, matching the identity their parent clubs have established in the NHL, in the third period highlighted by a monstrous hit from Blue Jackets 2015 draft pick Keegan Kolesar.
Daniel Zaar added an insurance goal 8:58 into the third when he fired a laser beam to make it 4-2, and Milano secured the win with an empty net goal at 18:57.
Columbus outshot St. Louis 34-20 and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo had 18 saves in the game.
“(Korpisalo) was awesome tonight,” Tynan said. “He had a lot of big saves, he played well early and it’s great to that get confidence early in the tournament.”
The Blue Jackets return to the ice Saturday when they face the Minnesota Wild prospects at 7 p.m.