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Blue Jackets look to stay hot on power play against Bruins in Game 4

Reverse regular-season trend, try to extend lead in Eastern series

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

COLUMBUS -- The power play that dragged down the Columbus Blue Jackets in the regular season is carrying them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blue Jackets are 8-for-21 on the power play in the postseason (an NHL-high 38.1 percent). They are 3-for-7 (42.9 percent) in the past two games, each a win against the Boston Bruins, that has given them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round.

Game 4 is at Nationwide Arena on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

 

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

 

Five of their six game-winning goals in the playoffs have come on the power play. The other came on a 6-on-5 advantage with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky pulled for an extra skater during a delayed penalty.

Columbus' power play was 28th in the NHL (15.4 percent) in the regular season, including 8-for-65 (12.3 percent, also ranked 28th) in the final 28 games. 

"We're taking responsibility of our roles on the power play," said captain Nick Foligno, who is on a top unit that has scored the past three power-play goals. "I think you look at our overall team game and guys have spoken about how everyone is accepting of their roles, well I think you're seeing that on the power play now. 

"I'm really proud of the guys the way we're competing and understanding that it's not so much the pretty plays, it's the retrievals, those things that are going to allow you the second and third chances and that was the difference-maker in the last game."

Forward Matt Duchene gave the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead at 12:42 of the second period in Game 3 on Tuesday, the end result of a shift where Columbus had the puck in the offensive zone for the last 1:34 of power-play time.

Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm3: Duchene doubles lead with PPG

The shift was keyed by defenseman Seth Jones' keep-in at the blue line with 1:04 remaining on the man-advantage, and several puck retrievals around the net by Duchene, Foligno and forward Artemi Panarin.

Columbus had five shots on goal on the power play and four shots that got blocked. Jones had five of the nine shot attempts, two going on goal. 

The Bruins liked their structure on the penalty kill but couldn't clear the puck and eventually got worn out.

Duchene scored off a rebound of Foligno's shot from the slot, which came off a rebound of forward Cam Atkinson's blocked slap shot from the right circle. Atkinson got the puck from Jones, who got it from Panarin, meaning all five Columbus players had a touch before the goal.

"That was almost like a 5-on-5 shift," Duchene said. "That was guys falling everywhere, battling, shooting pucks and just grinding for a goal."

It was different from how Duchene scored his double-overtime power-play winner in Game 2, which came off a rebound of a one-timer from Panarin in the left circle set up by a one-time seam pass from Atkinson.

Video: CBJ@BOS, Gm2: Duchene wins it in 2OT on power play

Duchene found the opening because Bruins forward Noel Acciari sagged low and forward Sean Kuraly mistakenly pushed up high with his stick to try to take away Jones' pass to Atkinson. The middle was wide open.

"One of the best things a power play can do is take advantage of mistakes," said Columbus assistant Brad Larsen, who runs the power play. "We talk about it all the time, make your reads. Kuraly got caught out of position and we took advantage of it. It's what good power plays do."

They also adjust when necessary, which is what the Blue Jackets did after going 0-for-4 in Game 1 against the Bruins. 

Jones replaced defenseman Zach Werenski up top on the first power-play unit, a subtle move that changed Columbus' mentality and direction. 

Jones, who shoots right-handed, is more of a shooter, especially if the one-timer is available. 

"If I see a shot lane I'm going to take it," Jones said. 

Werenski, who shoots left-handed, but in Game 1 looked to be more comfortable in settling the puck, holding it and then moving it with either a pass or a shot. 

With Jones at the blue line, the Bruins had to respect his shot at a time when they also wanted to take away Panarin's one-timer. It led to some indecision and mistakes.

The Bruins didn't cover either Jones or Panarin on Panarin's power-play goal 1:03 into the second period of Game 2. The defenseman set up the forward for a game-tying one-timer. 

Video: CBJ@BOS, Gm2: Panarin blasts one-timer for PPG

Jones' presence clearly had something to do with Kuraly's mistake that led to Duchene's double-OT winner. Why would he push up if he wasn't concerned with what Jones was going to do?

Jones' ability to hold the line in Game 3 plus his shot mentality helped keep alive the chance for Duchene to score another game-winning power-play goal.

"It gives you more looks, that's what it does," Atkinson said of having Jones up top. "It's a threat. I love shooting. I'm a shooter first even though it seems like I'm passing lately. But Jones is a shooter, [Panarin] is a shooter. It just gives us more looks, more options."

It's leading to more goals, more wins and more belief in a power play the Blue Jackets couldn't trust during the regular season.

"There were moments in the season where we looked terrified to make plays on the power play," Larsen said. "We started to find ourselves near the end of the season a little bit quietly. I think we found some spots for guys. Then you get success and it breeds confidence."

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