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Blue Jackets finally solve Blackhawks in shootout

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets keep finding ways to win, even when more challenges are put in front of them.

They walked into Nationwide Arena for the morning skate Saturday and learned that forward Boone Jenner will be out for as long as two months because a fracture in his back. The news came a day after forward Brian Gibbons went out for up to three weeks with a knee injury, bringing the Blue Jackets' man-games lost to 209.

Yet, they still defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout on Jack Johnson's goal in the ninth round of a shootout and 39 saves by Sergei Bobrovsky.

With the victory, the Blue Jackets ended a 13-game losing streak against the Blackhawks that dated back to Feb. 18, 2011.

"It's big because it gets the money off our back," Johnson said. "I wasn't really aware of it until this morning. Coach said we hadn't beaten these guys in a long time. That feels good."

Columbus (14-15-3) is 8-0-1 this month.

"Big picture, it's a huge two points for us," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "It's been a good December. We'll definitely enjoy it tonight dealing with the adversity we've faced so far through the first 30-plus games of the season. I'm talking about dealing with injuries and moving players around."

Jack Skille gave Columbus a 1-0 lead in the first. Patrick Sharp tied it in the second. Kevin Connauton put the Blue Jackets ahead early in the third before Ben Smith's controversial goal made it 2-2.

Chicago (22-9-2) had two power plays in the final 7:49 of regulation but could not break the tie.

"The penalty kills in the third period were a huge," Richards said. "Getting those two kills, you see the desperation and the battles in front of the net. When the game was on the line, the guys really dug in."

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford returned after missing eight games because of an ankle injury and faced 11 shots through two periods.

"I felt pretty comfortable," he said. "I didn't get much work the first half of the game. That was a good thing. I was able to get in a groove. There was a little bit more the second half."

Columbus played its sixth straight game beyond regulation; it won the first two in overtime and the next two in shootouts before losing in overtime to the Washington Capitals on Thursday.

The Edmonton Oilers (2004) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (2009) hold the NHL record for consecutive games decided beyond regulation at seven.

"It would be nice to end one in regulation, but a win's a win," Connauton said. "We're resilient. We've shown we can stick with teams. They're one of the top teams in the League."

Columbus won the shootout by a 2-1 score. The Blue Jackets almost ended it in the fifth round when Jeremy Morin, acquired in a trade from the Blackhawks for Tim Erixon on Sunday, scored in the top of the round but Andrew Shaw's shot went off the right post and crossbar before going in. Two rounds later, Brandon Saad missed getting the deciding goal when his shot went off the left post.

Johnson then deked Crawford and finished a forehand shot and Bobrovsky made a save on Bryan Bickell to end the game.

"Tonight was a night we might have been fortunate at times," Johnson said. "Our goaltending stole us the game for us to put us in the position to win it."

The hard luck for the Blackhawks in overtime typified their game. They were dominant for stretches, but had little to show for it.

"We did everything but win that game tonight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We played well in all areas of our game. We did a lot of good things. We had a couple of power plays at the end that didn't generate much, but give their goalie credit. In a shootout, anything can happen."

Chicago did have the Smith goal go its way.

His goal came after a lengthy review and overturned a no-goal call on the ice with 11:11 left in the third period. The puck was in the crease when Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger, who was without a stick, slid skate first into Bobrovsky's right pad while the puck skimmed to the goal line. Smith was able to reach around Connauton and swipe the puck across the line for fifth goal.

Columbus gained the 2-1 lead when Connauton scored with one second left on a power play three minutes into the third. It was his third goal of the season.

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