The Blue Jackets welcomed back former head coach John Tortorella to Nationwide Arena last night, and put on a show in front of him. They dropped the Flyers by a count of 5-2, in a game that was played closer than the score might indicate. It was a gutsy performance by the shorthanded Jackets, who spent most of the game with just four defensemen.
Johnny Gaudreau opened the scoring for the Blue Jackets. After a nifty backhand feed from Zach Werenski, Gaudreau scored off of the rush, firing a snipe past Carter Hart just under 4 minutes into the game:
The early start by the home club is a welcomed sight, as they took their first lead since October 23rd against the New York Rangers. Werenski would add a goal of his own 8:10 later, with Gaudreau’s feed to Patrik Laine broken up, Zach cleaned up the rebound:
The Jackets were outshot 12-9 in the first period, but looked to be well in control of the game as Joonas Korpisalo stood tall in the CBJ cage. Boone Jenner added to the lead just 37 seconds into the second period, off of a nice passing play from Laine and Gaudreau:
As you would expect from a John Tortorella coached team, the Flyers battled hard to get back into the game, and they did just that. Tony DeAngelo scored 13:04 into the second, and Ivan Provorov made it a one goal game at 8:41 of the third. The Jackets, by this point down to just four defensemen, banded together and played a total team defense to keep the Flyers at bay. Korpisalo made several quality saves, and they were able to keep the puck out of their net.
Empty net goals by Nick Blankenburg and Boone Jenner sealed the deal for the Blue Jackets, who snapped their 5-game losing streak. Unfortunately for the team, they lose two of their top-six defensemen. Werenski left the game in the first period with what looked like a shoulder injury, and Gudbranson left the game bloodied after being crumpled into the boards from behind.
Three stars: Johnny Gaudreau (1g, 2a) – Joonas Korpisalo (31 saves), Nick Blankenburg (1g)
The Werenski injury is immediately concerning because he has a history of shoulder troubles in the league. After the game, coach Larsen only said his status is “not good”, which gives the indication that he’ll be out longer-term.
Gudbranson was cut on the bridge of his nose, which normally isn’t enough to keep a player out of the game on its own. This tells us that he’s probably dealing with another ailment, but it’s hard to say what that is exactly. After the game, the team recalled defensemen Gavin Bayreuther and Marcus Bjork from the AHL, to give them at least six healthy defensemen heading into tomorrow night’s game in Long Island.
In the end, the four remaining defensemen last night played their butts off. Nick Blankenburg, Vladislav Gavrikov, Jake Bean, and Andrew Peeke, all earned their paychecks in a big way. The forwards came together and helped out, and the goaltending finally stood tall for the team. While you never want to see a player get hurt, it might be exactly what the team needed to rally around each other and play a complete game.
The impressive part for me, wasn’t so much that they won, it’s the method in which they won. The battled a physical, determined Flyers team, and every player on the ice for the Jackets stood tall against them. They looked like a team last night, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that kind of effort from them this season. Hopefully it trends upwards and they can gain some momentum from it.
They’ll face a tough test tomorrow night, on the road against the New York Islanders. The Islanders hold the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference, and the Jackets will certainly be without some of their top players again. It will take another 20 man effort, if they’re going to have any chance in this one.
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