Special teams key in Blue Jackets’ victory over Florida
COLUMBUS, Ohio — If the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to make a late-season surge and get into the Stanley Cup playoffs, they will need the type of effort on their specialty teams that they got on Saturday.
In their first home game in a month, the Blue Jackets scored three power play goals and also had one short-handed as they defeated Florida 6-3. It was the second time this season that the Blue Jackets have scored on the power play and short handed.
"They win and lose you games especially at this point of the season. Today it was big," said center Brandon Dubinsky. "Our penalty killing teams with some blocks and our power play came up with some big goals."
Even though Columbus had not scored a power-play goal in their past seven chances coming into the game, they are 6 of 20 over the past five games.
All three goals followed a similar script — create traffic and get it past goaltender Scott Clemmensen via a redirection of a shot from the point or get the rebound.
RJ Umberger’s first goal 7:42 in the first came off a rebound off a James Wisniewski shot from the right faceoff circle that Clemmensen couldn’t handle. Dubinsky’s line got the second goal less than four minutes later when Cam Atkinson redirected a David Savard shot.
After Florida scored the next two in the second period to tie it, Columbus regained the lead when Savard had a clear path on the right side of the offensive zone before getting near the front of the net and flipping it past Clemmensen.
Most teams have two power-play units, but for most of the season the Blue Jackets have been going with three. All three of those units ended up scoring against Florida, who came into the game with the league’s worst penalty-killing unit. The last time Columbus had scored three power-play goals was Nov. 17 in a 4-1 win over Ottawa.
"When we put the third group in, we didn’t like the way the other two were going. That was the real reason for it, to provide a spark and get some pride and motivation," head coach Todd Richards said. "It is ice time a lot of guys want. There may come a point where it starts to detract because guys are missing reps but right now it benefits us. We have a number of guys who can do it."
The best goal of the day and the one that gave the Blue Jackets momentum came with 10 seconds left in the second period. With the Panthers on the power play, Artem Anisimov forced a Jonathan Huberdeau turnover and then put it past the goalie after he committed for a 4-3 lead.
"Artie made a great individual play," Richards said. "I didn’t realize it was such a great play until I took a look at it on the replay. It would have been disheartening going into the intermission tied."
The win breaks a three-game winless streak and puts Columbus three points behind Philadelphia for third in the Metropolitan Division. The Blue Jackets are also three back of Detroit for the final Wild Card spot. It shapes up as an interesting week with four games the next six days, including three on the road. There’s also the NHL trade deadline Wednesday at 3 p.m.
"It’s a tight race. We’re focused on how we play but you are always going to look at the standings," said left wing Nick Foligno, whose empty-net goal late in the third period gave him 200 career points. "The funny thing is you are in (the playoffs) one day and out the next with how tight it is. This is going to be a tough week with a lot of travel involved. The guys are ready for it because we know what’s at stake. We remember the feeling last year when we missed the playoffs by one win. We want that feeling of glory and making sure we are in the playoffs."
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