No team probably had a better or more important Sunday night than the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Now, coach John Tortorella’s club will look to carry that experience — an unlikely comeback win and a much-needed two points — to western Canada on Wednesday.
Closing a two-game home series against the Vancouver Canucks but trailing 3-1 midway through the third period, Columbus scored four goals in just over seven minutes in a 5-3 win over the Western Conference team.
And Columbus, which travels to Calgary for Wednesday night’s match against the Flames, desperately needed a boost and some momentum heading into its final 15 games.
Over an 11-game span from Feb. 8 to Feb. 28, the Blue Jackets notched just one win — 4-3 in overtime at home over the Ottawa Senators — and fell from the top three in the Metropolitan Division into the wild-card race due to the 1-5-5 stretch of futility.
With the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins slotting into playoff spots, Columbus has been left to battle with the New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and Florida Panthers for the second wild-card spot that the Blue Jackets currently hold.
Sunday night’s third period gave Tortorella’s bunch a spark.
Riley Nash and Zach Werenski tallied to tie it 3-3 against Vancouver, Emil Bemstrom recorded the game-winner with 1:37 remaining in regulation and Gustav Nyquist added an empty-netter for good measure as Columbus scored four markers in a span of 7:10 to strengthen its position in the standings.
A crucial point in the game, Tortorella said, was holding strong — “We kept it 3-1,” he said — and he feels his group, which posted its first win in regulation since Feb. 7, could take the energy north to Calgary.
“We still have some struggles as far as our energy,” Tortorella said, “but to win a game before we go on a trip and the way we did it, hopefully we’ll get some energy off it.”
Columbus announced Monday that forward Josh Anderson would be sidelined four to six months following surgery on his left shoulder. The 25-year-old right wing scored 27 goals in a breakout campaign last season but was injured Dec. 14 against Ottawa.
The Flames own a one-point lead over the Canucks in the Pacific Division, and Calgary worked its recent five-game road trip to a 3-1-1 mark, ending Sunday with backup Cam Talbot’s 38-save shutout in a 3-0 win over the Panthers.
Calgary’s defensive unit, bolstered by the return of captain Mark Giordano on the trip, limited the struggling Panthers to mostly shots on the perimeter, which Talbot easily stopped on the way to his second shutout this season and 22nd career. Johnny Gaudreau, Milan Lucic and T.J. Brodie supplied the markers in the win.
Gaudreau found out Saturday after Calgary’s 4-3 defeat in Tampa to the Lightning that his paternal grandfather — a big supporter of his while growing up — had passed away. He dedicated his goal against the Panthers — the 150th of his career — to him.
“It was kind of a tough day, but, you know, it was nice to find the net for him there in the first,” said Gaudreau, 26. “It sucks losing people, but I was pretty pumped up to get that one for him.”
–Field Level Media