Saturday, December 20, 2014

Blue Jackets’ speed too much for Habs

MONTREAL—The Columbus Blue Jackets ran rings around the Canadiens all night.
Montreal took eight minor penalties, and played almost an entire period short-handed, in their 3-2 loss to a speedy Blue Jackets’ team last night.

“They were first on the puck, making us react to them, putting us on our heels a bit,” Lars Eller said of a young and energized Columbus team in the heart of a heated playoff race.
“When they do that, we take penalties.”
Montreal played more than 15 minutes down a man, including 50 seconds on a 5-on-3.
Seven different players did time in the penalty box for hooking, tripping, holding, high-sticking, and once for having too many men on the ice.
Forwards Brian Gionta, Daniel Briere, and Max Pacioretty saw their average ice time reduced significantly.
“There were a lot of guys sitting on the bench for long stretches that should have been out there,” noted Eller.
“It’s not good for our rhythm,” he added. “We want to be five guys on the ice.”
The undisciplined Canadiens began showing signs of frustration midway through the second period, taking several unwarranted penalties.
Newcomer Thomas Vanek gave Columbus’ Artem Anisimov a slew-foot when he was beaten to the puck while Ryan White hooked Ryan Johansen after the 21-year-old flew past him.
In the third, P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec took back-to-back penalties for high-sticking.
But as successful as the Blue Jackets were in drawing penalties, their power play was a bit of a dud.
Columbus went 0-for-8 with the extra skater, and saw all 13 power-play shots turned away by Carey Price.
“We’d love to get a power-play goal,” said Columbus forward Brandon Dubinsky, whose team’s power-play unit has not found the back of the net it its last 26 chances.
“It’s going to be important down the stretch,” he stressed.
“But we didn’t earn all those power plays without playing the right way.”
Dubinsky scored the go-ahead goal at 6:53 of the second period, at even strength, to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead after burying a juicy rebound past an off-balance Price.
“We skated, we were physical, we forechecked hard,” added Dubinsky.
“I liked our tenacity. We created turnovers.”
One of those turnovers came on the game-winning goal, when Johansen made rookie defenceman Jarred Tinordi pay for a giveaway at the Canadiens’ blueline.
Johansen intercepted Tinordi’s weak pass and beat Price on a partial breakaway for his team-leading 27th goal of the year at 16:59 of the third period.
“That doesn’t feel good,” said Tinordi, who had an otherwise solid game—blocking three shots in 15:29 of work.
“It’s a stupid play on my part,” he conceded. “I put it on my backhand, trying to go through the middle.
“[Johansen’s] a quick player. I should have anticipated he was going to be there.”
The Blue Jackets (36-27-6) showcased their speed from the get-go—setting the tone after the initial face-off by springing Cam Atkinson on a breakaway in the game’s first six seconds.
Price, who stopped 37 shots for the Canadiens (38-26-7), got the better of him.
But it was Price’s counterpart—last season’s Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky—who got the better of the Canadiens in the end.
Bobrovsky made 25 saves for the win, and now has started the last 16 games for the Blue Jackets (as well as 23 of their last 24).
The Blue Jackets now have earned 15 out of a possible 20 points in their last 10 games (7-2-1).
The team is holding on to the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus hopes to play post-season hockey for only the second time in the franchise’s 14-year history.
In 2009, they were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference quarter-finals.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Tampa Bay edged Ottawa 5-4, Buffalo beat Edmonton 3-1, New Jersey nipped Minnesota 4-3 (OT), Philadelphia doubled Dallas 4-2, and Detroit topped Pittsburgh 5-4 (OT).
Phoenix beat Florida 2-1, L.A. shaded Washington 2-1 (SO), and San Jose trimmed Anaheim 3-2.

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