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Second Round

Wennberg boosts Blue Jackets penalty kill against Bruins in second round

Forward played key role in Game 2 victory in playoff debut

by Craig Merz / NHL.com Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- There was a time the Columbus Blue Jackets saw Alexander Wennberg as their No. 1 center of the future.

That view and his role have changed to the point that Wennberg's biggest value is preventing goals, not scoring them. Specifically, being a key member of the Blue Jackets penalty kill.

Wennberg made his entry into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on Saturday and helped the Blue Jackets to a 3-2 double-overtime win at the Boston Bruins.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]

 

Game 3 is at Columbus on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.

"He did a great job on the PK for us," Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones said. "He had a lot of great sticks, picked off a couple of passes in the neutral zone. Him using his smarts and awareness out there really helped our penalty kill."

Wennberg, selected by Columbus with the No. 14 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, had 16:11 of ice time, 2:08 of it with Columbus shorthanded. Wennberg did not play in the first-round sweep against the Tampa Bay Lightning or in Game 1 against the Bruins before replacing forward Ryan Dzingel in the lineup.

Video: Blue Jackets defeat Bruins in 2OT and tie series 1-1

"Of course, you want to play, but there's no point going around being sad or weeping about it," Wennberg said. "You just man up, and this is what it is right now. There's no easy [way], take small steps to get into it. You get tossed out there and play the best you can."

"For the first game, I felt like I did some good things and a lot of things to build on."

Wennberg was vital when the Blue Jackets had to kill 3:01 off a Josh Anderson double minor for high-sticking at 7:37 of the second period. Columbus tied it 2-2 at 8:01 on a 4-on-4 goal by Artemi Panarin and did not allow Boston to grab the momentum during the shorthanded situation.  

"He certainly gave us some very important minutes, especially in a crucial part of that game the other night after the 4-on-4, and then we had to kill the penalties off," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. 

Tortorella loves Wennberg's defense and face-off ability but dislikes that he's not taken his offense to another level since getting 59 points (13 goals, 46 assists) in 80 games in his third NHL season in 2016-17.

Wennberg was expected to play center on a line with Panarin in 2017-18 after the Blue Jackets acquired Panarin in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks on June 23, 2017, but instead he was supplanted by rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois and had 35 points (eight goals, 27 assists) in 60 games.

This season, Wennberg had 25 points (two goals, 23 assists) in 75 games and sat against the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators in favor of rookie Alexandre Texier to conclude the regular season.

Wennberg helped the Blue Jackets tie the Lightning and Arizona Coyotes for the best penalty kill in the NHL in the regular season (85.0 percent). Columbus went 5-for-5 on the kill against Tampa Bay in the first round and is 7-for-9 (77.7 percent) against Boston, including 3-for-4 in Game 2.

"He brings all the elements you need to have a good penalty kill, " forward Brandon Dubinsky said.

Forward Cam Atkinson liked being on the kill again with Wennberg.

"He and I have been [penalty-killing] for a little bit now," Atkinson said. "He reads off me. I read off him. We're a really good duo. He's such a gifted player, obviously his skill set, but the way he thinks the game and his position, he's always in the right position."

 

Maintenance days

Forwards Josh Anderson and Riley Nash each took a maintenance day Monday. Nash was hit by Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara in the opening 20 seconds of Game 2 and left briefly before returning.

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