The Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights met for the first time ever at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio. After losing 6-3 to the Golden Knights in Las Vegas in January, the CBJ were looking to return the favor, this time on home ice.
In the first game back from their three-game west coast road trip, John Tortorella admitted after the game that his expectations weren’t all that high, saying:
As a coach you get your schedule and during the summer in July you look at it and I call them ‘we’re screwed here’, those type of games, that’s one of them that you have circled.
His team apparently didn’t get the memo.
Just 16 seconds into the game, the Jackets got on the board first. With Zach Werenski in deep offensively, Pierre-Luc Dubois gathered the puck up high and sent in a shot from the point. Cam Atkinson took a hack at the rebound but Artemi Panarin ultimately knocked it home to give the Jackets the early 1-0 lead.
Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has a little bit of history in Columbus, and the CBJ fans certainly didn’t forget. Following the goal, the Nationwide Arena faithful began chanting “Fleury,” something that continued throughout the game.
A little later in the first period, the Jackets appeared to take a two goal lead. In a tremendous individual effort, Pierre-Luc Dubois took a puck from along the boards, fought off checks, and worked his way to the front of the net to get a shot past Fleury to make it 2-0. Unfortunately for the Jackets, Cam Atkinson entered the zone offsides before the top line of the CBJ cycled the puck around for 33 seconds ahead of the PLD goal, which was waived off following a video review.
After the rest of the first period remained scoreless, Vegas tied the contest up early in the second when Erik Haula beat Joonas Korpisalo just 90 seconds in.
Rather than letting momentum shift towards the visitors after having a goal called back then giving up an equalizing goal early in the second period, the Blue Jackets responded.
At the 8:01 mark of the second period, Zach Werenski took a pass from Artemi Panarin and sent a one-timer past Fleury to give the CBJ a 2-1 lead. Werenski set a Blue Jackets franchise record for goals by a defenseman with his 13th of the season.
Less than two minutes later, Ian Cole sent a fluttering puck on net that seemed to handcuff Fleury before finding its way into the net to make it 3-1.
After taking the two-goal lead, the Jackets settled in. Tortorella commented on that after the game:
I thought tonight when we did get the lead, it was ugly getting it, but when we did get it, I thought we were on our toes and I thought we checked. I thought we played with much more confidence.
The Blue Jackets were able to keep the Golden Knights off the board for the remainder of the game. Dubois, after getting a goal called back in the first period, added an empty netter with just over two minutes left to secure a 4-1 CBJ victory.
The first star of the game was Joonas Korpisalo, who allowed just one goal on 38 shots on Tuesday evening after only finding out he was making the start earlier in the day. Following the game, Ian Cole had this to say about Korpisalo’s performance:
I think he really kept us in that game early and then certainly sealed that game out for us as it went on, he played unbelievably and to step in like that on short notice is the sign of a true professional.
After a string of bad results for the CBJ backup goalie, Korpisalo talked about what the win meant to not only the team, but to him personally:
It’s a big win for the team and for me too. It’s been tough the last four weeks so to finally get a win with the team and help the team a lot and feel good…so that’s something I can build on right now.
John Tortorella was happy for Korpisalo too, adding:
He not only played good, he looked good doing it too. There wasn’t a lot of extra motion in his game, he just looked like ‘I’m playing well tonight.’
The Blue Jackets have recorded two straight wins and now look forward to their second game of the current four-game homestand on Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche. With 73 points in the bank, the CBJ continue to flirt with the cut line in the Eastern Conference Wild Card race, finding themselves just above it at the end of the night.