Saturday evening’s game featured two teams coming off frustrating showings in their previous games. The Columbus Blue Jackets had stretches of good and not-so-good play, but when it was all said and done they did just enough to secure a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
As the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes met for the second time in five days, a spirited affair was expected in front of the sold-out crowd at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night. With the message following Thursday’s loss to the Ottawa Senators being stay focused, stay motivated, and get better scoring chances, it was expected that the Jackets would come out with a flurry to start the game.
Despite allowing eight of the first nine shots of the game, the line featuring William Karlsson, Markus Hannikainen, and Ryan Anderson got the Jackets on the board first. With the help of the defensemen, they sustained offensive pressure and crashed the net, testing Hurricanes goaltender Michael Leighton with four shots in one shift. That fourth shot, which found the back of the net at the 4:49 mark of the first period, was sent in by Markus Hannikainen for his first career NHL goal.
With the Canes playing their backup goalie, it was key for the CBJ to send shots in on goal. With just over five minutes remaining in the first period, Scott Hartnell did just that and was rewarded with his 12th goal of the season. Hartnell, who received a pass from Dalton Prout around center ice, skated into the offensive zone with speed and got a hard slap shot off just inside the blue line that beat Leighton to give the Jackets a 2-0 lead.
The Blue Jackets played a poor second period. With a 2-0 lead, the opportunity was there to keep their foot on the gas. Unfortunately, they let off. They didn’t register their first shot until there was 3:42 remaining in the second period. They allowed power play-opportunities and odd-man rushes to the Hurricanes, who took advantage. Sebastian Aho and Justin Faulk scored goals for the Canes on the power play and a two-on-one scenario, respectively.
CBJ coach John Tortorella took some responsibility for the way the team played and let captain Nick Foligno speak to the team during the intermission.
I think I’ve got to take a little responsibility for our second period. I don’t think I helped them in how I was going about my business, so I didn’t need to go in there in between periods. We gave it to Nick.
Even with a double minor assessed to the Hurricanes with 1:39 remaining in the second period, the Jackets’ struggles continued and carried over into the third. It wasn’t until the mid-way point of the period when the Jackets got a good scoring chance as Sam Gagner split a couple defenders to give himself and Scott Hartnell a two-on-one opportunity. Gagner sent a bouncing puck over to Hartnell who buried it to give the CBJ a 3-2 lead. Dalton Prout also picked up his second assist of the night.
Scott Hartnell described the team’s play during the second period and how they rebounded heading into the third:
One of our worst periods, we didn’t generate anything, we were on our heels, they were coming at us, and it could have been 3, 4-2 for them, so we just kinda refocused there in that second intermission, came out with an attitude, came out with some pace and we were able to get going and we got the late goal and hang on.
The Carolina Hurricanes made a good push late in the game with a power play and an empty net but were unable to get anything past Sergei Bobrovsky. Despite only having 20 shots, including just eight in the second and third periods combined, the Blue Jackets were victorious.
John Tortorella elaborated after the game about how he and the coaching staff need to improve:
It’s a lesson for me to make sure that we’re still going through a process as a team. We’re a very young hockey club…we don’t know how to continue the standard that we want to play at when the league’s getting better…that’s part of our job to continue to teach that…I didn’t help our club tonight…so good for them.
Winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky put a positive spin on the outcome:
It doesn’t matter how many shots or how many mistakes we make, we got two points and we move on. At the end of the day you’re not going to see how you played and how many mistakes and how hard they played against us, you know, it’s all about points and we achieved our goal tonight and we move on.
Saturday’s game was the last one at Nationwide Arena until February 4. The Jackets will hit the road for five straight games (with the All-Star break in there as well). Although they haven’t played great hockey of late, the Blue Jackets (31-10-4) are still tied for first place in the NHL. They’ll head to Ottawa next to take on the Senators for the second time in four days on Sunday evening.