Blue Jackets beat Devils
Patience is a virtue in hockey, too.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 24 shots and flu-weakened James Wisniewski had a goal and two assists to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-1 victory over the struggling New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
Nothing much happened in the first 26 minutes of play, but the Blue Jackets adhered to their game plan and in the end it paid huge dividends.
''We kind of just stuck with it,'' said Cam Atkinson, who scored an unassisted goal for what proved to be the winner. ''They're a trap team so whoever broke down first, the other team's going to capitalize. A big power-play goal by Dubie kind of got the ball rolling for us.''
Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and an assist and Marian Gaborik added an empty-netter for the Blue Jackets, who won for the second time at home after losing four games in a row. They are 13-3-3 in their last 19 home games.
''We played a smart, systematic game - that's what the Devils do,'' Columbus coach Todd Richards said. ''It was a little bit of a chess match going back and forth. I like the way we managed the puck and managed our shifts. There just wasn't a lot going on and you have to be comfortable playing that game. Patience is a good way to describe it.''
Leading 2-1, the Blue Jackets made it a two-goal lead at 4:12 of the third. The Devils had a bad turnover in their defensive zone, with Wisniewski stepping across the blue line and almost pushing the puck toward the net. The puck hit the stick of defenseman Mark Fayne and went through to goalie Corey Schneider before tumbling over the goal line.
That was more than enough of a cushion for Bobrovsky, last year's Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie. He came in with just two wins despite a .921 save percentage while starting the first seven games.
He made several solid saves in the second period, in particular, but wasn't tested much in the third.
''Obviously, Bob was a rock for us tonight,'' Atkinson said.
The loss dropped the Devils to 0-5-2 on the road and 1-5-3 on the season. They had finally picked up their first win with a 4-0 victory on Saturday that ended a club-record, season-opening seven-game winless streak.
''We definitely wanted to build off that win. We started that way with the power-play goal (by Michael Ryder), but we didn't do it,'' captain Bryce Salvador said.
Asked what the team's problem was on the road, Salvador said, ''I don't know. If we knew, we'd definitely address it and fix it.''
Coach Peter DeBoer was left to explain another defeat.
''We turned the puck over in our own zone a couple of times and they banged it in,'' he said. ''We're all searching for answers. The bottom line is, when you go on the road and play these teams — and that's a big strong team — you have to have 20 guys prepared to be in the fight and win battles. You can't go in with 15 or 16.''
The Devils led 1-0 after Ryder's power-play goal in the second period, but Dubinsky responded with a man-advantage goal of his own. Atkinson and Wisniewski, who didn't come out for the morning skate he was so sick, each added unassisted goals.
''I woke up at 6 a.m. and (was really sick),'' Wisniewski said. ''We showed a lot of character in the way we played. It took us a while to get going, but we found a way to win.''
The Blue Jackets took a 2-1 lead at 15:30 of the second when Atkinson skated toward the high slot. His quick backhander made it through heavy traffic for his third of the season. After Wisniewski's goal, Gaborik scored his fourth on an empty net with 35 seconds left in the game.
The Blue Jackets are a different team from when they couldn't gain a point on the road a week ago.
''The big word for me is urgency,'' Dubinsky said. ''We're a lot more urgent in our game. We're putting long stretches of (good) time together. If you look through those losses, we had stretches where we were playing good but just not for long enough. Over the last couple of games, we've just dug deep and played complete games.''
NOTES: New Jersey F Jaromir Jagr played in his 1,400th NHL game. He is the active leader in goals (683, 10th all-time), assists (1,011, 12th) and points (1,694, 8th). ... The Blue Jackets are 29-0-0 since Jan. 9, 2012 when leading after two periods. ... The Devils allowed assistant coach Mike Foligno to fly to Columbus on Sunday so he could spend time with his son Nick, a Blue Jackets forward, his wife and new granddaughter Milana, diagnosed with a heart condition soon after her Oct. 14 birth. ... The Devils fell to 1-2-3 when scoring first, while the Blue Jackets are 3-1-0 when down 1-0. ... It was Columbus D David Savard's 23rd birthday. ... Schneider had 20 saves for the Devils.