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Flames spoil opener for Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz /

COLUMBUS -- Goals by Jiri Hudler and Curtis Glencross 42 seconds apart in the third period led the Calgary Flames to a 4-3 win Friday, spoiling the season opener for the Columbus Blue Jackets before a sellout crowd of 18,151 at Nationwide Arena.

Calgary lost in a shootout Thursday at the Washington Capitals in its opener after blowing two three-goal leads, and twice lost advantages to the Blue Jackets before Hudler took over.

He took a center-ice pass from TJ Galiardi to score at 12:10 on a slap shot to break a 2-2 tie with his second goal of the season.

"We have to be resilient," he said. "Things are going to happen in games that don't go our way. I thought tonight was another great effort. We did a good job of holding the lead."

The play started with a Columbus turnover and a quick transition through the neutral zone with Mikael Backlund connecting with Galiardi. Hudler gathered Galiardi's pass in full stride down the left side. As Hudler skated into the faceoff circle he unleashed a shot that went under the gloved left arm of Sergei Bobrovsky into the far netting.

"They transitioned hard," Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky said. "We've got to be better. We made a few mental mistakes. We just didn't play good enough. I don't know what to tell you."

Glencross, a former Blue Jackets player, scored at 12:52, converting a goalmouth feed from David Jones that eluded several swipes by the Blue Jackets.

Calgary needed the goal because Artem Anisimov drew one back at 15:47 by stuffing in a rebound off the end boards.

Columbus pulled Bobrovsky for an extra attacker in the final 90 seconds but its rally was thwarted by an interference call to Jack Johnson with 1:09 to play, and the Flames won for their third time in the past four tries in Nationwide Arena.

The Flames got first-period goals from Sean Monahan and Galiardi. Marian Gaborik and Johnson each had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets.

Gaborik, starting his first full season in Columbus after being acquired from the New York Rangers on April 4, helped the Blue Jackets produce a 2-2 tie in the first period, after the Flames were able to twice solve Bobrovsky, the 2013 Vezina Trophy winner.

The first time was by a player not in the League last season. Monahan, the 18-year-old No. 6 selection in the 2013 NHL Draft, scored at 2:27 for his first goal in his second game.

He followed an assist in his debut Thursday in the 5-4 loss with a rebound from in front of the crease for a 1-0 advantage Friday after Bobrovsky made the initial save on Lee Stempniak.

"Once it went in it was a great feeling. I was pretty happy," Monahan said. "Most importantly we won that game."

Monahan played 13:80 on 18 shifts.

"I'm learning a lot and feeling like I'm getting better every day," he said.

Columbus tied the score 2:30 later on the power play when Gaborik from the left circle found Johnson skating down the slot. Johnson went down on his left knee to fire the puck.

"It was a great seam pass … I was able to slide under," Johnson said. "A guy like [Gaborik] is going to see that.

"We definitely had a lot of chances. Our special teams were pretty good. The power play had its good moments and bad moments."

The game marked the NHL debut for recent Columbus draft picks left wing Boone Jenner (second round 2011) and defenseman Ryan Murray (first round 2012).

Murray created the second goal for the Flames by making a blind pass at the attacking blue line. Galiardi intercepted it and broke free on Bobrovsky and beat him top shelf with a backhander at 7:56.

"We didn't take care of the puck," Dubinsky said. "We had too many turnovers. We got caught cheating too many odd-man rushes. That's a recipe for disaster against any team in this League."

Jenner started the game on the first line with Gaborik and Dubinsky but was soon replaced by former Flames player Blake Comeau, who had an assist on the second goal, which Gaborik scored at 15:20 from left of the net.

Dubinsky was the set-up man; he rushed the net for a rebound and was able to knock the puck over to his linemate.

Joey MacDonald started in goal for the Flames after Karri Ramo played in the opener. Ramo made 35 saves Thursday, when Calgary let leads of 3-0 and 4-1 get away.

MacDonald had 29 saves; Bobrovsky stopped 26 shots. The Blue Jackets are 5-6-2 in season openers and 5-5-3 in home openers.

Expectations are booming in Columbus after a late but ultimately unsuccessful bid to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference last season, equalizing the Minnesota Wild in points for the final spot but losing the tiebreaker.

The Blue Jackets won't have a repeat of that scenario because they have moved to the Eastern Conference and the new Metropolitan Division.

Johnson said the Blue Jackets can't afford a slow start like last season, even though they finished with a 19-5-5 run.

"It's important to win some games at the beginning because putting that much pressure on ourselves like we did last year is not an ideal situation," he said.

The night got off to a rousing start when hometown golfing legend Jack Nicklaus did the ceremonial puck drop. He is hosting the Presidents Cup, a tournament featuring the best golfers from the United States vs. the top non-Europeans, at his Muirfield Village Golf Club in the suburb of Dublin.

The Blue Jackets play at the New York Islanders on Saturday. Calgary's home opener is Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks.

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