Blue Jackets top Hurricanes in OT, move closer to playoff spot
For more than 60 minutes, the Columbus Blue Jackets just couldn’t manage to give their power-play unit a chance.
Once they finally went up a man in overtime, Ryan Johansen made it count.
Johansen scored a power-play goal at 2:40 of the extra session to lead Columbus past the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Saturday night.
"I was talking to the ref, I was like, `Come on, we need a power play,’" Johansen said with a laugh. "We have confidence in our power play, so if we get opportunities, we feel we’re at least going to get a lot of momentum out of it and get some chances."
Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist and Matt Calvert also scored to help the Blue Jackets earn an important two points in their push for the second playoff berth in club history and first since 2009.
"We can pat ourselves on the back for this one, but starting (Sunday) and the day after, we’ve got to move on," defenseman Dalton Prout said. "There’s still lots of work to be done, and for the most part, we control our own fate. It’s a good feeling."
Jeff Skinner and Andrei Loktionov scored and Riley Nash had two assists for the Hurricanes, who fell to 6-11 since the Olympic break.
"We seem to be finding ways … to lose," Carolina captain Eric Staal said. "It’s not like we’re completely out of it every night. We’re in the battle.
"For whatever reason, we can’t seem to get that one that falls for us and it goes the other direction," Staal added. "Our compete, our work ethic, for the most part has been there. We’ve got guys that care. We’ve got guys that try. That’s not our problem."
Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves for Columbus in his second straight start in place of flu-stricken starter Sergei Bobrovsky.
The decisive sequence started midway through OT when Brandon Dubinsky rang the left post. Goalie Anton Khudobin couldn’t cover the puck, but forward Jiri Tlusty did — drawing a delay of game penalty and giving the Blue Jackets their first power play of the night at 1:54.
Johansen then ended it with a snap shot from between the circles that trickled past Khudobin, who stopped 29 shots in his second consecutive start for Carolina.
Loktionov put the Hurricanes up 2-1 when he took a feed from Nash in the circle and snapped the puck past McElhinney with 13:22 left.
But for the second time in the game, the Blue Jackets struck back quickly to tie it. This time it was Anisimov, who pushed the rebound of Nathan Horton’s shot past Khudobin 50 seconds later.
"We found a way to claw back," Johansen said.
These teams entered on opposite ends of the playoff spectrum, with the Blue Jackets taking the ice in a four-way tie for two Eastern Conference wild cards.
Carolina is mathematically alive for just its second postseason berth since winning the 2006 Stanley Cup, but the Hurricanes — who entered seven points behind that cluster of four teams — have a long way to go to catch up.
"We don’t think we’re out yet," coach Kirk Muller said. "We’re going to push."
For much of this game, offensive chances were few for both teams.
Khudobin made the save of the night midway through the first period when he slid across the net to thwart Blake Comeau on a 2-on-1.
"They knew we were on a back-to-back with travel," Prout said. "They came out hard and I think they carried the play. But we weathered the storm and I think we fought back."
The scoring pace picked up near the end of the second: Skinner finally broke through for Carolina when he scored with 3:31 left in the second. He snatched the rebound of rookie Elias Lindholm’s shot and chipped the puck over defenseman David Savard for his team-leading third goal this season against Columbus.
Calvert tied it with 1:14 left in the period when he snapped the puck past Khudobin after a takeaway — the first goal allowed by the Hurricanes goalie in a span of 121 minutes, 49 seconds.
NOTES: Calvert has goals in two straight games. … Skinner has a four-game points streak and has four points in five games against the Blue Jackets this season.