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Panarin's skill, Blue Jackets' resiliency keys to Game 1 win

Forward's OT goal completes come-from-behind victory against Capitals

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- This was why the Columbus Blue Jackets wanted Artemi Panarin.

The 26-year-old forward scored a highlight-reel goal 6:02 into overtime to give the Blue Jackets a gutsy, come-from-behind 4-3 victory against the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Capital One Arena on Thursday.

 

[RELATED: Blue Jackets defeat Capitals in OT in Game 1 | Complete Capitals vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]

 

Panarin, who was acquired in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks on June 23, 2017, drove wide around defenseman Dmitry Orlov in the left face-off circle, and then cut to the net before quickly shifting the puck from his backhand to his forehand and snapping it in over goaltender Philipp Grubauer's glove.

"Big goal for our team," Panarin said. "I'm happy because it was a hard game and a big win."

The Blue Jackets battled back from down 2-0 and 3-2 to take a lead in a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time in their history. They lost Game 1 and never led in any of their previous three first-round series: in 2009 against the Detroit Red Wings (lost in four games), in 2014 against the Pittsburgh Penguins (lost in six games), or last year against the Penguins (lost in five games).

"They'd score, we'd answer. They'd score, we'd answer," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "That's a huge character win in Game 1."

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm1: Panarin seals OT win with superb goal

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is here Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2, NBCSWA, FS-O).

Panarin had three points (one goal, two assists) in the series opener. He had an assist on Thomas Vanek's power-play goal that tied it 2-2 at 1:31 of the third period and set up Seth Jones' game-tying power-play goal from the right circle with 4:26 left.

Panarin capped his night with the kind of world-class play the Blue Jackets knew they didn't have the skill to pull off before they acquired Panarin from the Blackhawks. In the trade, Columbus gave Chicago forward Brandon Saad, goaltender Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft for Panarin, forward Tyler Motte and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

"We traded away a really good player in [Saad] to get him. A different type of player, a guy that makes something out of nothing," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "Makes a great play on the tying goal and scores just a goal that a lot of people can't score in this league. That's sometimes the difference between winning and losing. Last year, we grinded with scoring chances and had a tough time scoring some goals.

"Big-game players, that's important if you want to find your way at this time of year in the high-stake games."

The Blue Jackets' character was tested throughout. After forward Josh Anderson received a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding defenseman Michal Kempny at 17:23 of the first period, the Capitals grabbed a 2-0 lead when Evgeny Kuznetsov scored power-play goals 29 seconds apart, at 17:52 and 18:21.

The Blue Jackets were able to kill off the remainder of Anderson's major without falling further behind.

"That's a very, very important trait of a team that's going to win here for a while," defenseman Ian Cole said. "No matter what happens, any [goal] they score, whatever the situation may be, park it, come back and get the job done later, and I think we did a great job of that."

Video: CBJ@WSH, Gm1: Foligno talks key save in Game 1 win

Alexander Wennberg scored 4:48 into the second period to start the comeback. He left the game with an upper-body injury after Capitals forward Tom Wilson charged him 1:18 into the third period.

Vanek replaced Wennberg in front of the net on the Blue Jackets power play and scored from there to tie the game 2-2.

With Wennberg and Anderson out, Columbus was down two forwards and lost another one briefly when a Jakub Jerabek point shot struck Foligno in the face 1:40 into the third. Fortunately for Foligno, the visor on his helmet absorbed most of the puck. Although he was cut on the left side of his face and also was bleeding from his nose, the training staff was able to stop the bleeding, and he returned to the game at 5:06.

The Blue Jackets were challenged again when Devante Smith-Pelly scored from below the left circle to put the Capitals back ahead 3-2 at 5:12 of the third. Unflustered, they answered again with Jones' power-play goal before Panarin scored the third overtime playoff goal in their history, the first since Foligno in Game 4 against the Penguins on April 23, 2014.

"We were having a ball," Tortorella said. "There was no nervousness. They were having a ball. … I'm just glad early on in a series that they get to experience something like this. It's something some guys haven't experienced, winning an overtime game."

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