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Blue Jackets top Devils for second under Tortorella

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky gave coach John Tortorella a glimpse of how good he can be with 23 saves in a 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday.

Forwards Boone Jenner, Cam Atkinson and Scott Hartnell scored in the third period, and the Blue Jackets won their second straight game after losing their first under Tortorella, who replaced Todd Richards on Oct. 21. Columbus is 2-8-0.

"The puck just hit him tonight," Tortorella said of Bobrovsky. "He was in such great position. He wasn't moving a whole bunch and he looked solid. You didn't see the net; he's a big reason why we won. His game is slowly coming along, and that was the best he's played in the three games I've seen him."

Bobrovsky bailed out Columbus in the first two periods, when New Jersey held the advantage. The Devils (4-4-1), who had their four-game winning streak end, outshot the Blue Jackets 24-14.

"Even with the coaching change, my job is still the same and I'm still focusing on the same thing and that's stopping the puck," Bobrovsky said. "It was definitely important for me personally to win. There are lots of games left, so it's time to get going."

Bobrovsky (2-6-0, 3.99 goals-against average, .864 save percentage) lost the shutout when Kyle Palmieri scored a power-play goal off a backhand with 2:28 left.

Tortorella blamed himself for the Blue Jackets' sluggish start.

"We didn't play that well and that's on me," he said. "Our team looked tired, and it's me not knowing the club right now. I think we skated a tempo at practice [on Monday] that was a little bit too long and it affected us [Tuesday]. We're going to learn to skate at a tempo where it won't affect us, but that hurt us tonight. The good thing about it, we still grinded away in the third period and defended well."

Tortorella said he doesn't think his players are out of shape, but that it will be up to the coaching staff to gradually build up their endurance as the season moves along.

"Now, I don't think [Monday's] practice was hard, but their bodies showed me that it was, so we have to do it in increments and build it up because we're going to play with tempo and practice with pace," Tortorella said.

Jenner, who leads the Blue Jackets with six goals, scored off a rebound from the left hash at 9:03, and Atkinson tucked in a shot off a pass from Brandon Dubinsky at the right post 35 seconds later. Jenner's goal came 2:30 after Tortorella called timeout following a good scoring chance by the Devils.

"[Bobrovsky] gives us a lot of confidence and he needs to be our best player game in and game out," Atkinson said. "We know the game he's capable of playing and know he'll keep getting better. If he's on top of his game, it gives us a chance to win every night."

Devils forward Jacob Josefson had a deflection in the slot that caromed in on Bobrovsky and trickled toward the goal line before he swiped the puck away with his goal stick at 6:11 of the third period. After an icing, Tortorella called timeout.

"I called the timeout because the team was tired," Tortorella said. "[Brandon Dubinsky's] line was tired and we wanted to set up a faceoff play and just get them rest, get a fresh line out there and get the puck out."

Hartnell extended the lead to 3-0 off a slap shot from the left circle that beat Devils goalie Cory Schneider over the left shoulder at 14:47.

"They were working in the third," Schneider said. "We can't let [that] one break take the wind out of our sails. For me, I can't have two goals back-to-back like that. I think we could have responded better. That's on us."

The Blue Jackets were without center Ryan Johansen for a second straight game. Johansen, who missed a win at the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, is day-to-day because of fatigue. Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said prior to the game there was no update available, and Johansen did not travel with the team.

"We know who we are as a team and a group and we've faced adversity," Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray said. "For whatever reason, we had a little bit of a lapse at the start of the season, and that is something we want to get over and learn from. It's better to have those lapses at the start of the year instead of in the end. It's a learning process for all of us."

Devils coach John Hynes used 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Defenseman Jon Merrill, who missed the past four games, returned, and left wing Stefan Matteau was a healthy scratch. Devils forward Bobby Farnham, acquired on waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, also was a healthy scratch.

"We had a couple breakdowns and they wound up going in the back of the net," Hynes said. "I think that was really the difference in the game."

The Devils scored one power-play goal on four chances.

"There's positives and negatives in every game whether you win or you lose," Devils forward Adam Henrique said. "There's going to be games [where you] dominate and lose, and there are going to be games where you get [outplayed] and win."

Dubinsky, who served as the Blue Jackets' top center between Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno in Johansen's absence on Saturday, started there again. He was replaced by Alexander Wennberg and shifted to second-line center late in the second period.

The Devils next play at the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. The Blue Jackets end a four-game road trip at the Washington Capitals on Friday.


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