Blue Jackets top Wings for first win
It was a night of long-awaited firsts for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
James Wisniewski made his Columbus debut after serving an eight-game suspension, and rookie Ryan Johansen scored his first career goal and added an assist to give the Blue Jackets their first win of the season, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
”I don’t think anyone in that dressing room has been through the three weeks of hell we just went through,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. ”The psychologial, the emotional, everything that came with it. It was a lot of baggage.”
R.J. Umberger had a goal and an assist, rookie John Moore scored his first NHL goal and Derek MacKenzie had his first of the year into an empty net for Columbus, which entered as the only winless club at 0-7-1, the worst start in team history.
Wisniewski, who played 27 minutes, 21 seconds, was suspended for the remainder of the preseason and eight regular-season games for a hit to the head of Minnesota forward Cal Clutterbuck in an exhibition game on Sept. 23.
”It felt pretty good,” he said with a grin about finally getting on the ice. ”I was happy with the way I moved the puck out of my own zone.”
It was clear Wisniewski’s presence sparked his new club.
”First of all, the couple times he hit that shot of his that the goalie never even saw,” Arniel said. ”Then his outlet passes, outstanding first pass. He made some great reads.”
Grant Clitsome added a career-best three assists and goalie Steve Mason, who was shaken up on Detroit’s first goal and left for a few minutes, rebounded with a sturdy performance and 30 saves.
Darren Helm scored for Detroit, which started 5-0 but dropped its second straight. The Red Wings were hammered on Saturday in Washington, a night after dominating the visiting Blue Jackets 5-2.
”We just got beat 7-1, so to start like that tonight to me is a lack of preparation and isnt good enough,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. ”You knew Columbus was going to play hard. You knew they were going to find a way to win a game so our urgency had to match theirs.”
Ty Conklin, who finished with 28 saves, has taken both losses for the Red Wings.
The first period may have been the best of a forgettable early part of the season for the Blue Jackets. They forechecked in waves, controlled the puck and made smart plays giving them a 14-6 edge in shots.
Umberger, off to a sluggish start, put Columbus on the board just 21 seconds in with his first goal of the season. He muscled home a rebound of a shot by Antoine Vermette from the slot.
Helm responded four minutes later for the Red Wings with his first, circling from behind the net – after out-battling defenseman Kris Russell for a loose puck – and sneaked home his second whack inside the near post.
Johansen, put Columbus back on top at 8:56 on a power play, banking a carom from the end boards off the back of Conklin’s left skate. Conklin was scurrying back from the top of the crease where he was positioned to play Clitsome’s shot from the point.
”I tried to bank it off his leg and it trickled in,” said Johansen, the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft. ”It was a pretty good feeling.”
In the second period, Conklin stopped a breakaway by Vermette but moments later Moore, a 2009 first-round draft pick, followed with a long-distance floater through traffic – after hard work in the corner by Cody Bass to win the puck – to give Columbus a two-goal lead at 14:16
Henrik Zetterberg almost countered immediately on a wraparound but Mason dived across the paint to make the save.
Columbus carried the play in the third period behind three power plays with a near-miss by Derick Brassard at the post. The Red Wings finally had their chance with the man advantage in the waning moments with Tomas Holmstrom drawing a penalty, but MacKenzie grabbed a loose puck and scored at 19:06.
That legendary Detroit ”push” never materialized.
”There’s no excuse for what happened tonight,” Babcock said.
Notes: Red Wings starting goaltender Jimmy Howard was excused from the team for the birth of his first child. … Blue Jackets rookie goalie Allen York saw his first NHL action, playing an official 2:33 when Mason was briefly sidelined. … Columbus closes out this month at Buffalo (Oct. 27), at Chicago (Oct. 29) and hosts Anaheim (Oct. 30). … The Red Wings entered 5-0-2 in their last seven regular-season trips to Columbus, outscoring the Blue Jackets 19-5. … Columbus finished 1 of 7 on the power play, Detroit went 0 for 3.