Bobrovsky’s strong start allows for runaway third period
Twenty-four hours after Dallas’ Rich Peverley collapsed on the Stars bench early in the first period due to a heart-related incident, the Blue Jackets were still in somewhat of an emotional state of mind. Adversity can cut both ways. It’s how you deal with it that matters.
Detroit, playing for their playoff lives and decimated by injuries, came out of the gate strong. They had Columbus back on their heels early in the first, as the hometown boys struggled to get their emotions in check. With poor puck management and too many turnovers, they didn’t start the game playing "their way."
"It could have easily been four or five to one in the first period," said Columbus head coach Todd Richards, "if not for Bob. He really held down the fort and kept us in the game and gave us an opportunity."
Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky faced 18 shots in the first period, making 17 saves, as his teammates did their best to get their emotions in check.
"The guys dug down. You would think that you’d maybe come out and start, based on the number of games that we’ve played, energy-wise, that we’d come out and start the game the right way and maybe finish the wrong way. We didn’t start the game the right way, but we certainly finished the game the right way," Richards said.
Although Detroit has been decimated by injuries, they are still a tough team to play. They are finding themselves in somewhat uncharted waters presently, having to play very hard to secure a playoff spot with less than 20 games remaining. Columbus has been in this position before.
"When you’re missing (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Pavel Datsyuk), those two guys, that’s a real black hole," said Richards. "They’re talented guys and leaders of their team. In the first period, they did a great job. They were skating, had the puck, created turnovers and forced us into some positions where we ended up making some poor plays. And, they were winning battles."
The "never give up, never surrender" attitude was on full display by Columbus as their emotions settled. Late in the first period, they started to make smarter plays with the puck, leading to better play to close out the period.
At 15:11 of the first, forward Nick Foligno drew Columbus even with a gritty, hard-nosed backhand effort from his belly. He has a penchant for highlight reel goals from time to time while still keeping an affable quality about him. His 17th goal of the season ties his career high with 17 games to go.
"It was nice to get that one," said Foligno. "It was a pretty rough start for us. We didn’t come out the way we wanted to, but we battled back. Bob was outstanding in the first to keep us in (the game). Then we just took over in the third. That was a heck of a third period by all of us."
The game turned in the second period, even though neither team could score on the opposing goalie. Columbus played with verve and a more aggressive style, even as Detroit continued a clutch and grab style of play. The Blue Jackets, 6-1-1 in their last eight games versus Detroit, seemed to be saying "not in our house, not tonight" to the Red Wings.
"I think discipline, getting our feet going and creating a forecheck," Foligno said about what changed in the second period. "I think we’re a team that needs to be forechecking to be a good team. We weren’t doing that in the first. They were coming at us ‘guns a-blazing’ and we were on the retreat.
"It was nice to get on the forecheck and really create some havoc. It wears teams down and you saw that in the third."
Halfway through the third period, the chants of "Booonne!!" rang throughout the arena as rookie forward Boone Jenner, unassisted, scored his fourth game-winning goal of the season. He now has the second-most GWG among rookies in the NHL.
"I just came around from behind the net," said Jenner, "just kind of looking around. The seas parted for me and I saw the lane. So, I just thought I’d take it to the net and shoot."
With insurance goals from Brandon Dubinsky and Derek MacKenzie, Columbus capped the night with the victory and two huge points in the ultra-tight playoff race in the Metro division. With Philadelphia losing to New Jersey, the Blue Jackets move into third place within the division. They now sit one point behind the second place New York Rangers.
Columbus has done well since the new year began, going 17-7-1 in their last 25 games. With the postponement of the tilt with Dallas on Monday, that game and the two points it offers become even more important in the playoff race. The best-case scenario would be for Columbus to secure a playoff position before that game is played, making it moot. With 17 games remaining, the Blue Jackets control their fate.