It was a game that most saw coming off a bye week.
The Columbus Blue Jackets entered their game Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres looking to extend their winning streak. If they were going to do that, they had to find their legs early and often in an afternoon matinee against a desperate team coming off consecutive home losses.
To say the first two periods of this game was a snoozefest would be putting it mildly.
The Sabres got a goal from Evan Rodrigues off a great passing play by Rasmus Dahlin. But that was it for goals for most of the game. First period shots ended just 5-5. There were lots of whistles and stoppages that made the game extremely choppy. There just wasn’t a lot of flow.
The Blue Jackets even had a goal taken away from them. It appeared Alexander Wennberg had tied the game. But after review, the goal was taken away due to the puck being kicked in. His skate never left the ice but the puck did go off his skate and past Carter Hutton. The search for a tying goal was back on.
And in typical Blue Jackets fashion this season, they found a way in the third period.
Who else but Oliver Bjorkstrand tied the game in the third period with one of his patented shots that he blew by Hutton. All he needed was one chance. The puck came to him in the slot. He wasn’t going to miss that.
Getting to Overtime
That goal by Bjorkstrand was all the Blue Jackets could muster offensively. But thanks to their overall play that’s all that was needed to get to overtime. They found a way to get an important point in the playoff raced despite playing nowhere near their best.
The whole second half of the game just felt like the Blue Jackets were going to tie the game somehow. There was a nervousness in the crowd. Although over 17,000 was the announced attendance, there were many empty seats at KeyBank Center. The Blue Jackets needed just one opportunity to get the tying goal. It went to their hottest goal scorer. That’s the way things have been going.
The Blue Jackets did however lose in overtime. They never possessed the puck after the opening faceoff and Jack Eichel eventually made them pay. He skated around the zone for a while before finding an opening. He beat Matiss Kivlenieks clean with his shot. Coach John Tortorella wasn’t going to say anything negative about this game. They did get a point after all.
“That’s a big point for us, coming back in the third period,” Tortorella said postgame. I thought we fought the puck at times. The first period was probably our best forechecking period. But you’re not getting me into a negative thought about this game. That’s a huge point for us to start off the break and we’ll go to Montreal.”
Bjorkstrand thought the second point was coming after his goal.
“It got us to overtime,” Bjorkstrand said of his goal. “I just wish we could have taken it from there. I thought we were going to. I did.”
The Blue Jackets get right back at it Sunday afternoon in Montreal. They play the Canadiens who are coming off an impressive 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
- You may have noticed that the Blue Jackets only had two skaters on the ice for the anthems. They were Zach Werenski (8) and Nathan Gerbe (24). It was a tribute to Kobe Bryant. It was an incredible touch of class by the Blue Jackets. Here’s Tortorella on the tribute. “Yeah just that. That’s a man that I have never met, but I have watched play and what he was doing after the game, how involved he was as far as just trying to do the right things. And again, let’s not forget and I think as it’s gone on, as this tragedy has unfolded and more and more people are talking about the other people on that helicopter are being talked about, which I think is very important, a couple other young kids that passed there, it’s awful. You know, it’s just something that, it brings home to you really what the most important thing is when you’re speaking about families and all the things that come with that. We have the numbers on the jerseys. We wanted to try to send, just do something. And that’s what we did.” Well done Blue Jackets.
- Matiss Kivlenieks played a good game that helped the Blue Jackets get that point. He allowed the Rodrigues goal five-hole from the slot. His pad wasn’t down in time to make the save. But to his credit, he made several saves that kept the Blue Jackets in it until Bjorkstrand finally tied the game. It’s just two road games, but collecting three out of four points in those games could be huge later in the season. He’s allowed just three goals against in just over 120 minutes of game action. Impressive.
- Once again, the Blue Jackets finished a game with zero PIM’s. That’s the second time in three games this has happened, ironically in both of Matiss Kivlenieks’ starts. This has been a huge factor in keeping the goals against down. If you stay out of the box, you play more five-on-five. The Blue Jackets continue to be one of the least penalized teams in all of hockey. This has also made Kivlenieks’ job much easier not having to see a barrage of shots on an opposing power play.
- The Blue Jackets did have two power plays Saturday but couldn’t score. They are dead last on the power play since Dec 1. Injuries are a part of this but they need to find ways of connecting on their chances more consistently as we move along.