Blue Jackets Finally Break Their Losing Streak

At a time when the Columbus Blue Jackets desperately needed a spark, one of their most scrutinized players came through in a big way. Then his teammates followed suit.

Sergei Bobrovsky, the subject of a lot of media attention, stopped 27 of 30 shots, including a game-defining save on Tyson Barrie late in the second period to help the Blue Jackets to an important 6-3 win Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. He made several other key saves to allow the Blue Jackets the opportunity to come back in this game. But it’s the save on Barrie that will be remembered for some time.

The Save

With the score 3-2 Avalanche with under a minute left in the second period, Barrie received a pass at center point and had nothing but open space in front of him. Given the recent performances of Bobrovsky, it seemed like a sure goal with no defenders around.

But it was Bobrovsky who rose up to the task and made the save. Instead of being down two going into intermission, the Blue Jackets had life. Then they made it count in the most amazing way.

The rebound went to Artemi Panarin. He found Cam Atkinson on a stretch pass. Atkinson made no mistake going to his patented shootout move to beat Philipp Grubauer. The goal tied the game at three and gave the Blue Jackets a huge jolt of momentum.

First was the save. Then there was the score. But then there was a scare.

Cam Atkinson #13, Columbus Blue Jackets
Cam Atkinson’s 29th goal of the season couldn’t have come at a better time for the Blue Jackets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Surviving a Scare

The Blue Jackets took the lead in the third period on a great play by Boone Jenner. He took a puck and fed Josh Anderson in front of the Avalanche net. His shot managed to squeak through the five-hole of Grubauer. It was time for a celebration on the Blue Jackets’ bench.

That was until Avalanche coach Jared Bednar decided to challenge the play for offside.

The replay looked scary from a Blue Jackets perspective. Nick Foligno flipped the puck into the Avalanche zone. While this was happening, Anderson appeared to reach back with his skate to tag up. He was in the zone as the puck went fluttering in. The question was did Anderson tag up in time?

I and many thought this was getting overturned. Then the scare turned into shock when it was announced that the play was onside. All of Pepsi Center including the players were furious at the call. They showed the replay several times on the big board and it still looked offside. Yet the Blue Jackets managed to survive the scare and took the lead.

According to the NHL’s Situation Room, Anderson tagged up before Foligno entered the zone.

Not only was this a game-changing moment, the Blue Jackets got a power play for a failed offside challenge by the Avalanche. And not only did the Blue Jackets convert, but the one player who by far needed a goal converted.

Alexander Wennberg buried a shot from the right circle to put the Blue Jackets up two and the game out of reach. Everyone felt good for Wennberg who had just one goal on the season going into Tuesday night. After the game, he earned the Kepi. Listen to the reaction when this was announced.

When asked postgame how good it felt to score, Wennberg told me “It feels really good.” The quote itself doesn’t give justice to how he said it. It came across as though someone got the monkey off his back.

The Blue Jackets accomplished their goal for the night. They needed a win. They got a win. Now they can try to build a streak starting Thursday night in Glendale against the Arizona Coyotes.

For these Blue Jackets, it’s one game at a time, one win a time, no matter how it comes.

Mark’s Observations of the Game

  • Despite the win, the Blue Jackets didn’t play anywhere near their best game. There were defensive miscues. They allowed all three Avalanche goals to come from defensemen. While they played better in the third, their lack of consistency for a full game continues. To their credit, they found a way to win this one. But if they hope to enjoy success in the playoffs, they need to cut the long stretches of inconsistency from their game.
  • Pierre-Luc Dubois scored goals 20 and 21 on the season becoming the first Blue Jackets’ player in franchise history to score 20 or more in each of their first two seasons with the team to begin their career. He was a force as usual. Not only was it the goals, he has a rare combination of size and speed that anyone would covet. He put both on display at different points in the game. At one moment, he used his size to hold off defenders. They couldn’t move him no matter what they tried. Then on his empty-net goal. he used his speed to put the game away. He continues to only scratch the surface of his potential.
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand is playing by far his best hockey of the season. His 1-0 goal on a wraparound was a thing of beauty. He used his speed to create the chance while also demonstrating the level of creativity he has in his game. He’s also been noticeable all over the ice.
  • The penalty kill again stole the show for the Blue Jackets. They are confident and it shows in their kills. We will have a feature on the Blue Jackets’ PK coming up soon. But for now, they’ve allowed one power-play goal this calendar year. Quite the change from being dead last on the road for a while.
  • Despite trying some different line combinations, Tortorella went back to Panarin, Dubois and Atkinson later in the game. Once again, they delivered. They must be discussed as one of the best top lines in the game given production and how important they are to success. Not sure how you can keep breaking them apart given what all they are capable of. You just have to hope they continue to get some secondary scoring.
  • Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Murray are each day-to-day with lower body injuries. The Blue Jackets have Wednesday off. We should learn about their statuses on Thursday when they hold a morning skate at Gila River Arena.