Blue Jackets top Canucks in shootout
Columbus coach Tortorella gets win in return to Vancouverby Kevin Woodley @KevinisInGoal / NHL.com Correspondent
VANCOUVER - Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella wasn't looking for revenge against the Vancouver Canucks, the team that fired him after one season.
Back in Vancouver for the first time since being let go by the Canucks after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013-14, Tortorella admitted that he enjoyed the Blue Jackets' 2-1 shootout victory on Thursday, but not for the reason most expected.
"Everybody thinks I come in here with a hate-on because I got fired out of here," Tortorella said. "I look at it the other way. I have really good friends over there. I wish them nothing but the best, and I think they are approaching it the right way."
Tortorella, who called the Canucks' core stale before he left and called for the youth movement that is now fully underway two seasons later, is also increasingly impressed with the approach of his own struggling team, especially Finnish goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.
The 21-year-old rookie made 37 saves through 65 minutes, including a backdoor robbery of Radim Vrbata during an overtime power play, and stopped all three attempts in the shootout, setting the stage for Alexander Wennberg to win it with the final shot. Wennberg gave the Blue Jackets the win when his wrist shot went between the legs of Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller.
"Coming in there I saw he was waiting for me to deke or something," Wennberg said. "I just tried to shot it quick and it worked this time. I felt like there was an open spot."
Scott Hartnell tied the game with a power-play goal midway through the third period for the Blue Jackets (20-28-5), who have won three of their past four and have split the first two games of a four-game Canadian road trip coming out of the All-Star break.
But the game probably wouldn't have gotten to a shootout if not for Korpisalo.
Video: CBJ@VAN: Hartnell evens game with wrister
"It's easy to say now because he didn't let one in, but it just looked like he wasn't going to let one in," Tortorella said. "That's how it felt on the bench. Just a great experience for him as far as what he is doing for the club and for him as far as his confidence."
With starter Sergei Bobrovsky and regular backup Curtis McElhinney out with injuries, Korpisalo has started six consecutive games. He came into the game with a .937 save percentage in his previous six starts, and finished it with a 5-1-1 record in his past seven.
"Of course," Korpisalo said when asked if he was getting better with the added experience. "You get a lot of games and you get used to the NHL pace. You kind of know what is going on. You don't have to wonder about everything. It feels pretty familiar to me right now. I'm a lot more comfortable than I was in the beginning."
Korpisalo kept the Blue Jackets in the game with a couple of tough saves shortly after the Canucks scored. He slid across to stuff Brandon Sutter on a solo rush and pushed hard left to right to deny Luca Sbisa of an open net on a rebound. Korpisalo was great again on a power play six minutes into the third period, stopping Horvat from the slot with his blocker before getting a break when Baertschi hit the crossbar.
"I got all of it, the whole thing," Baertschi said. "I thought it went in but light didn't go on. … We're going to be frustrated for an hour and then it's over, put it in the garbage and look ahead. That's important, we had quite a few guys that had good chances tonight but I think it's just a matter of sticking with it and eventually they are going to go in."
Hartnell tied it shortly after Baertschi's miss. With Canucks' center Jared McCann, a surprise starter ahead of fellow rookie Jake Virtanen, in the penalty box for hooking, Cam Atkinson skated to the left circle and faked a shot before sliding the puck across to Hartnell in the slot for a wrist shot that went past a screened Miller on the blocker side.
Video: CBJ@VAN: Vey opens scoring with PPG
"I saw it go to him but I had somebody with me so I chose to look on the other side thinking he was maybe going to shoot right away, and when he handled it everything kind of switched back and couldn't recover," Miller said.
Linden Vey scored a first-period power-play goal and Miller made 27 saves through overtime for the Canucks (20-19-12), who have lost three straight games.
"It's three games in a row where we felt we could get two points in every single one and instead we're sitting with one point," said Canucks forward Jannik Hansen, who hit the crossbar from in tight on a breakaway 17 seconds into overtime. "It's another wasted opportunity to either gain some ground or keep up in the [playoff] race."
Vey opened the scoring 9:05 into the first period after a nice rush by Bo Horvat. The 20-year-old center gained the offensive zone with speed worked a quick give-and-go with Baertschi along the boards to create a 2-on-1 down low, sending the puck cross-ice quickly for a one-timer by Vey past Korpisalo's outstretched glove.
Korpisalo robbed Horvat twice with his left pad on rebounds in tight with 2:39 left in the third period before rolling over onto his back to keep the loose puck out of the net.
"He's unflappable as far as his mental toughness," Tortorella said. "It was a tough game because in the middle of the game there wasn't many chances for either goalie, but towards the end we got a little nervous with the puck and gave up quite a few."
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury; he missed on several excellent chances in the third period.
"We played well enough to win but we just couldn't score," Sedin said. "[Korpisalo] was all over the place. We got to some rebounds and had some chances to put it on, but he came back and made some big saves."