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Johansen turns turnover into Blue Jackets win

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski was describing his team's style of play Thursday morning prior to facing his former team, the Montreal Canadiens.

"We try to grind [teams] down," Wisniewski explained, "so that by the third period they just don't want to play anymore."

The Canadiens now know exactly what Wisniewski means.

Ryan Johansen scored the game-winning goal off a Jarred Tinordi turnover with 3:01 remaining in the Blue Jackets' 3-2 victory.

Johansen picked off Tinordi's pass attempt in the neutral zone to go in on goal and beat Carey Price through the legs for his 27th of the season on Columbus' 39th shot of the game, taking advantage of the kind of error Wisniewski was referring to.

"I don't know if it was a direct result of that," Wisniewski said afterward. "But I certainly felt if you watch the second half of the game, it looked like we started taking over and grinded them down. We play a big, heavy game and it's hard to play like that.

"[The St. Louis Blues play] like that, and as a defenseman when they keep dumping it in your corner you're just … waving the white flag. You're going to get hit, you're going to get pounded, they're going to crash the net, they're going to battle.

"I think we played our game plan to perfection."

The Blue Jackets outshot the Canadiens 40-27 and had 83 attempts to 53 for Montreal. In spite of controlling the puck for the majority of the game, Columbus outhit Montreal 36-17, a combination that is rare.

The Blue Jackets have outshot their opponents 87-47 in their past two games.

"We're a team that just keeps coming," Johansen said. "We're a bunch of little rats, we're just in your face the whole game. That's our identity, and we've been doing a good job of sticking with that in the second part of this year for sure. I'm really happy with the way the guys played tonight and have been playing as of late."

Derek MacKenzie and Brandon Dubinsky scored for Columbus (36-27-6), which has won seven of its past 10 games (7-2-1) to solidify its footing in the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets jumped into third place in the Atlantic Division, passing the New York Rangers in the standings even though they each have 78 points because Columbus has played one fewer game.

The Rangers visit the Blue Jackets on Friday, a game that marks New York forward Rick Nash's return to Columbus.

"It's not easy to come [to Montreal] and get points. This was huge," said Dubinsky, who was acquired in the trade that sent Nash to New York. "We certainly needed the points because it seems like everybody right there in that clump is winning every night, and we've got to keep pace here."

Brendan Gallagher and Thomas Vanek scored for Montreal (38-26-7), which had its three-game winning streak end.

"Tonight was a bad night," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "We haven't had many this season, but tonight was not a good night."

The primary reason the game was so close was Price, who stopped 37 shots compared to 25 by counterpart Sergei Bobrovsky. After allowing seven goals on 62 shots in winning two starts following an eight-game absence with a lower-body injury, Price had his best game since his return.

"Obviously disappointed with the loss," Price said, "but moving forward that's a confidence-builder."

Columbus entered 0-for-18 on the power play over their previous six games and went 0-for-8. Over those seven games when they were 0-for-26, the Blue Jackets have scored twice shorthanded, including McKenzie's goal that tied the game 1-1 in the first period Thursday.

"It's just frustrating right now," Wisniewski said. "You just go through those little lulls where nothing's going right. I don't think I even had any clear shots at the net and we had eight power plays."

The Blue Jackets got a breakaway off the opening faceoff when Wisniewski sprung Cam Atkinson only to be foiled by a Price pad save.

It was a sign of things to come.

The Blue Jackets buzzed around the Canadiens zone for much of the period, but allowed Montreal to score first when Johansen took the first of his three first-period penalties (including a fighting major with Max Pacioretty).

"That wasn't me, that's for sure," Johansen said. "I'm just happy we found a way to get two points and I don't have to worry about that stuff."

Tomas Plekanec set up Alex Galchenyuk for a one-timer that was stopped by Bobrovsky, but the rebound popped in the air and was batted by Gallagher. The puck bounced off Bobrovsky as he dove to get back in position and rolled into the net for Gallagher's 18th of the season at 14:53.

After Johansen was called for cross-checking 41 seconds after the goal, the Canadiens were called for icing, leading to a faceoff in their zone.

Mark Letestu took the draw for Columbus and got a shot high on Price as soon as the puck was dropped. McKenzie drove the net from his position at right wing and put in the rebound that sat in the crease for his eighth of the season at 15:53.

The Blue Jackets dominated the second period by outshooting Montreal 13-7 and came out of it with a one-goal lead.

Dubinsky scored his 14th of the season at 6:53 when he cashed in a rebound of a Jack Johnson shot to make it 2-1.

The Blue Jackets had five power plays between the time that goal was scored and Vanek tied the game 2-2 at 7:46 of the third, his 25th of the season, fourth in two games, on a one-timer from the faceoff circle off a Pacioretty feed.

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