Today’s weather forecast for Columbus, Ohio was calling for sleet, ice, and plenty of snow. What the weather man forgot to mention was that the prognostication should have included a tornado of pucks. Unfortunately for Minnesota Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom, that tornado touched down in Nationwide Arena. Even while having an impressive game himself, Backstrom couldn’t keep the boys in Union Blue from potting 4 impressive goals. Curtis McElhinney, in his first start after getting the keys to the cruiser, posted a shutout as the CBJ rocked the Wild 4-0.
As soon as the game opened up there was something about the Blue Jackets. It’s as if they rallied around the injury to starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, and decided it wasn’t going to define them. The Jackets had a jump in their step, but could not sustain offensive zone pressure. Minnesota used bodies to clog the neutral zone and made it difficult for CBJ skaters to break through. Fortunately for Columbus, the Wild couldn’t muster much of an attack as well. The first period saw little action, as both teams looked a little sloppy with puck control and found it difficult in keeping pucks deep in the attacking zone. The CBJ out-shot Minnesota 9-7 in the opening frame, and both teams had one power play each go by the wayside.
The second period has notoriously been rough for the Jackets this season, but on this frigid evening they decided that was enough. At the 1:17 mark Cam Atkinson got the party started by snapping off a snipe that knuckled over the shoulder of Backstrom. Atkinson took a long pass from Brandon Dubinsky and buried it from the top of the face-off circle.
At 4:37 the infamous Matt Cooke, formerly of the Pittsburgh Penguins, took a hooking call against Dubinsky and the Jackets took advantage. The ever-present Ryan Johansen found himself with the puck and fired a shot on net, and the red-hot Nick Foligno deposited the rebound on the backhand past Backstrom. Much to the dismay of the 11,319 winter warriors in attendance, it was not from between his legs, but a goal nonetheless.
The biggest play of the entire night, however took place on the defensive end of the ice for Columbus. At 6:15 in Artem Anisimov was whistled for hooking against the Wild’s Charlie Coyle. Shortly afterwards while on the kill, Dubinsky was called for slashing Mikko Koivu. Minnesota had 1:13 of a 2-man advantage, but the CBJ were able to keep the puck out of the middle and the Wild could not capitalize.
Late in the period, CBJ forward RJ Umberger and Wild D-man Jonas Brodin were racing for a loose puck in the Minnesota corner. Umberger appeared to put a shoulder into the side of Brodin who lost an edge and hit the wall awkwardly. This coaxed a delayed boarding call, but Wild defenseman Ryan Suter took exception and went after Umberger. A scrum ensued and both Umberger and Suter were shown the gate with coincidental minors. Shortly after the penalties ended, Umberger again found himself in the middle of a scrum following a fencing match with the Wild’s Keith Ballard. The Jackets had the Wild on the ropes and tensions were getting high as both teams skated off at the end of the second.
In the third period Columbus poured it on. Rookie Boone Jenner, after arguably being the Jackets’ hardest-working player since coming off injury, was finally rewarded 4:38 into the final frame. After getting his stick broken on a face-off at center ice, Jenner raced to the bench and grabbed a new stick. He then grabbed a feed from Blake Comeau as they raced down the ice and deposited the puck past Backstrom with a lethal wrist shot.
At the 9:05 mark the Jackets put the game away with a bit of a show. Nick Foligno drove to the net with the puck and pulled Backstrom and the Minnesota defense out of position then fired a behind-the-back pass to Umberger sitting in front of an open net. Umberger slammed home the gimmie and the coffin was nailed. McElhinney and the Blue Jackets defense stood tall on the few Wild advances, but the game was won.
If there was one word that could describe this game tonight its TEAM. This was a complete team effort for the Blue Jackets. It looked as if the loss of Bobrovsky for significant time woke the team up and they were not only able to buck the trend of losing-winning-losing, but look convincing in doing it. They crashed the net, controlled the puck and actually outshot Minnesota 41-20. Its games like these that make you believe in your gut that this team is capable of so much more than it had been showing. Some might chalk it up to the Wild having to play from behind against the Chicago Blackhawks the night previous, but nevertheless the Jackets looked good. Four different players scored goals tonight, and McElhinney looked solid. Columbus is going to need all the momentum they can get as they travel to Pittsburgh Monday night for a game against their Metropolitan Division rivals, the Penguins.
Tags: Columbus Blue Jackets