|Curtis McElhinney got the job done tonight|
HUGELY important for the stretch run was the fourth line getting on the board early, with Mark Letestu getting a goal off a good hustle feed from Corey Tropp. The Jackets scored again off a wicked one-timer from Ryan Johansen on a sweet feed from Kevin Connauton. In that case, Connauton had jumped up on the play, and Joey was playing the point, a little role reversal that fooled Holtby, the Washington goal tender. Joey put some sauce on that shot though, to be sure. After that point, the Jackets and the Capitals counter punched, with the Capitals scoring promptly after each Jackets goal, but never really closing the gap to a tie. Atkinson got the game winner on a blast from the high slot.
I liked the Blue Jackets game tonight. They did a lot of things to really flummox a well coached (damn you Trotz) and talented team. The last two, well actually three, goals the Jackets scored came off of sequences where the Jackets puck possession got the Capitals chasing the puck, and never catching up. There were several really good sequences by the Jackets that the Caps couldn't solve. On the other hand, when the Caps pushed back after a goal, they pushed back hard, and the Jackets seemed unable to organize themselves against it.
All in all, a huge two points against a Metro opponent. It would have been really bad not to win in regulation to night, and the Jackets did a good job of closing out the game. I thought Alex Wennberg had a really strong game tonight. True, it was mostly defensively, but in the NHL, you have to play defense if you want ice time (unless you are Ovi), and he is starting to be an impact player defensively. The offense will come with more chances, you get more chances by being an impact player defensively. No worries about this kid. We may not see the offense this year, and maybe not next year, but for sure the year after, barring unforeseen circumstances. He grows with each game, and is poised to really make a difference in the stretch run. If he got a goal or two and got hot, I could see him on a little push that might make a difference in this stretch run. We'll see. No worries if he doesn't, but he is going to be getting ice time by earning it.
A really good game by the Jackets, coming off the glory of the All-Star game. One thing that may well arise from that event is a huge surge in confidence by Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen. And that could be trouble for the other guy down the stretch.