Three Things: Blue Jackets Show Grit in Comeback Victory Over Ducks

By Jacob Nitzberg on January 8, 2020 at 12:46 am
Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones shoots the puck on goal.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

It was close until the final horn sounded.

On the second night of a back-to-back in southern California, the Blue Jackets went down early, but came back and notched a 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks kept it interesting, scoring an empty-net goal with 42 seconds remaining to make it 4-3, but the Blue Jackets held on for another huge two points. 

Here are three things from tonight's win.

Momentum Swing

The game started in an ugly way for the Blue Jackets, as they gave up an early first-period goal for the second straight contest. Although they tied it up in the first, they proceeded to give up an early second-period goal to make it 2-1, Ducks. They stumbled through most of the first 40 minutes and desperately needed an offensive boost.

Enter Nathan Gerbe.

Gerbe, the spark plug for this hockey team, who wouldn't even be on the NHL roster if the Blue Jackets hadn't sustained several injuries, is now a staple in the lineup. His goal late in the second period was crucial, and he now has five points (3G, 2A) in eight games since joining the Blue Jackets.

Not only did Gerbe's goal tie the game, but it also prompted an offside challenge from the Ducks, which they lost. The play was deemed to be onsides after officials ruled that Anaheim's Hampus Lindholm played the puck back into his own defensive zone, rather than Gerbe.

The NHL's explanation cites the rule applied: 

On the ensuing power play as a reward for the Ducks' failed challenge, Zach Werenski converted to make it a 3-2 hockey game heading into the final period.

It was a huge momentum swing for the Blue Jackets, who scored twice in the last two minutes of the second period to recoup some confidence for the third period.

Z Keeps Scoring

Zach Werenski is a star. There's no way around it.

With his goal in the second period tonight to give the Blue Jackets a 3-2 lead, plus his empty-netter to make it 4-2, his season tally is now at 15. He's on pace to shatter the Blue Jackets' single-season record for most goals by defensemen (16, shared by Werenski and Seth Jones). At 15 goals, Werenski is now the NHL leader for most goals by defensemen this season.

In his last five games, he's notched seven goals and an assist. Not too shabby.

He's also now leading the Blue Jackets in goals this season, despite missing seven games with a shoulder injury. Although Werenski won't be in St. Louis for the 2020 NHL All-Star game, there's no question that he's deserving of a place there.

All of a Sudden...

Raise your hand if you thought, before the season began, that the Blue Jackets would be in playoff contention. Now, raise your hand if you still felt that way three weeks ago, when the Blue Jackets were 11 points out of a wildcard spot and sported a record of 11-14-4.

If your hand is still up, you're either lying or you can see into the future.

With their win tonight, the Blue Jackets are now tied on points with the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers hold a tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets, but both teams have 50 points. 

For the Blue Jackets to even be in the conversation is an incredible accomplishment, given what they lost in terms of production this summer and this season due to injury. It's clear that this group is hungry for more, though. They have lost in regulation one time over their last 15 games, and the one team that beat them is up next on Thursday: the San Jose Sharks. 

It sounds like the perfect time to get revenge.

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