Blue Jackets close season's first quarter with complete performance

BY foxsports • November 19, 2013

To paraphrase the immortal Ron Burgundy, "It was a pretty big deal out there."

The
"out there" was the ice surface of the Canadian Tire Centre in suburban
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Kanata, Ontario, to be exact). It was early
in the third period, and the Columbus Blue Jackets had just taken a 4-0
lead over the Ottawa Senators on a Derek MacKenzie goal off another one
of those "how did he do that?" blind pass from Mark
Letestu.

Just 17 seconds later, Senators
defenseman Mark Borowiecki caught Columbus forward Jared Boll with his
head down in the Blue Jackets zone. Boll was leaning forward as he
attempted to move the puck out of his d-zone, and Borowiecki blasted him
with a hit directly to the head. 

That's when
the "big deal" happened. In the blink of an eye, Jackets defenseman
James Wisniewski pounced on Borowiecki in retaliation. Giving up some
size, "Wiz" was wrestled down to the ice, but bounced up quickly and
landed some good hits on the young Senators blue
liner.

But whether or not Wisniewski had the edge
in the fight is not of primary importance here. In that split second
that it took him to retaliate for the head hit on his teammate, he made
an eloquent statement about Blue Jackets team unity. The response for
the Columbus bench was all you needed to know about how that message was
received by Wisniewski's teammates. 

They
enthusiastically banged their sticks in unison on the boards in front of
the Columbus bench, as a salute to the statement - and sacrifice --
Wisniewski had just made on behalf of the team. Luckily, Boll
seemed to suffer no lasting effects from the illegal head shot, but you
can expect there to be some very positive lasting effects from the
response by Wisniewski in coming to his teammate's
defense.

If this season is about to make a turn
in the right direction for Columbus, remember that moment as one that
may have been pivotal in helping strengthen this team's
bond.

                        *****

Another
positive from the Ottawa game, the first on this five-game road swing
through Canada, was the way Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson rebounded
from a tough game against Montreal Friday night at Nationwide
Arena.

Both young players were called out after
the game by head coach Todd Richards, Johansen for the pass he made that
led to the Canadiens last-second goal in the first period, and Atkinson
for taking an unnecessary penalty that allowed Montreal to tie the game
with a second-period power play goal.

Johansen
dominated in Ottawa, showcasing those amazing hands on a power play goal
to open the scoring early in the first period, then adding an assist on
the Blue Jackets second goal. The big center had five shots on goal in
the game to lead the team and was 58 percent in the faceoff
circle.

Atkinson didn't show up on the score
sheet but played a very strong two-way game. The highlight of the
afternoon for the speedy winger was an amazing backchecking effort in
the second period.

In a sequence that was
beautifully telestrated by Blue Jackets TV analyst Bill Davidge,
Atkinson turned on the after burners to get back into his defensive zone
and break up a potential two-on-one break for the Senators. He paid
the price, too, slamming hard into the end boards because he couldn't
hit the brakes quite in time.

While that
impressive effort by Atkinson may not have registered in the box score,
you can bet that -- much like the Wisniewski response to the head hit on
Boll -- it resonated through the team.

All in
all, it was a good way to start a long road trip.  And it may have been
the start of something much bigger.


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