Blue Jackets power play awakens just in time in come-from-behind win

Jan 10, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray (27) and Carolina Hurricanes right wing Patrick Dwyer (39) go after a loose puck during the third period at Nationwide Arena. Columbus defeated Carolina 3-0.

Russell LaBounty/Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

It turns out the fans are right.

You’ve heard it many times. The Columbus Blue Jackets are on the power play and moving the puck around the offensive zone efficiently. Meanwhile, the time with the man advantage is ticking down, and fans are imploring their team to, "Shoot, shoot!!"

That’s the idea, especially for this team. Before Monday’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards was expressing consternation with his team’s power play and emphasizing that he wants his players to think getting shots on net when they’re on the man advantage, not try to make the fancy play.

"You watch Tampa Bay set up on the power play, and they set up differently than we do," said Richards. "They have guys who can tic-tac-toe the puck and execute and score goals. Our design is more of a ‘shooting’ power play, but we want to play that skill game and it ends up not being to our benefit."

Richards had reason to be concerned about the power play of late. In the 10 games prior to Monday, Columbus had scored only four ppg’s in 34 attempts, a paltry 11.8 percent success rate. Then the Blue Jackets went zero for their first four attempts Monday, and they were trailing the Lightning by a goal heading into the third. That’s when Ryan Murray became a bit of a prophet.

After the morning skate Monday, the Columbus rookie defenseman had this to say about the team’s power play woes of late: "I think we’ll be fine if we just get pucks on net, get traffic there, and be a shooting power play. When we have lanes to the net we want to take them, try to get shots through, and the goals will come."

The goals did come, and it was because the Blue Jackets moved the puck well in the Lightning zone, battled to create shooting lanes and created significant traffic in front of Tampa Bay goaltender Anders Lindback. It was Artem Anisimov camped in front of the Lightning goaltender when Nathan Horton ripped his 200th career goal from the left wing. Lindback is still waiting to see that shot.

The Horton power play goal tied the game early in the third. Then, with time winding down in regulation and overtime looming, Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson ripped a shot from the high slot with both Anisimov and Mark Letestu parked in front of Lindback, and the puck found its way into the net for the game winner. Just like that the Blue Jackets went from 0-for-4 with the man advantage to 2-for-6.

When asked about his team’s power play challenges before the Lightning win, Nick Foligno said all it needed was an adjustment in mindset. The basic framework, he insisted, was sound, and the only problem was — you guessed it — not enough shots.

"I think it’s just trying to get more shots on net," he noted. "The system works; we know that, so it’s just a matter of executing it better, making sure the options that we’re using we’re doing them quickly and getting shots to the net. I think that’s where we’re hesitating a little bit, we’re trying to be too cute, maybe look for that extra play.

"Really, the power play is pretty simple, you’ve got to move it around and get that box (opponent’s defense) moving, and once you have a lane to shoot, you have to get guys there and converge," Foligno continued.

"That’s what the top power plays do; it’s really nothing fancy, and we have to start doing that as a team because we have the capability to do it, for sure."

They proved they had the capability Monday in the latest "biggest" win of the year. And the way this team is playing five-on-five, if they can stick to the mantra of "movement, shooting lanes, traffic, and plenty of shots" on the power play, this four-game streak has a chance to turn into a genuine run.