FINAL: BLUE JACKETS 5 | HURRICANES 4
PNC ARENA | RALEIGH, NC
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards has urged his team to play with pace, no matter if it's practice or a game. They certainly accomplished that in Raleigh tonight.
Facing a 4-2 deficit late in the second period, the Blue Jackets needed a spark and something to get them going. They got it from several sources, but they started a three-goal rally that proved to be the difference in the game with under seven minutes to play in the second period.
Boone Jenner - who was one of the Jackets' top players again tonight, skating on a line with Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky (more on those two in a moment) - made a perfect pass to Ryan Johansen for a power-play goal that cut Carolina's lead to 4-3, setting the stage for a wild third period.
Columbus quickly erased the one-goal deficit, scoring twice in the first six-plus minutes of the third period to take a 5-4 lead and take the wind out of the Hurricanes' sails.
Gaborik's second goal of the game tied things up at 4-4 at the 1:33 mark - a laser wrist shot from the right circle - and Sean Collins buried his first goal of the preseason at 6:26 to complete the comeback.
While it wasn't the best night at the office for Columbus starter Curtis McElhinney (allowed four goals on 22 shots and didn't have much help in front of him), Mike McKenna did a solid job in relief and was terrific in the third period. McKenna went 12-for-12 between the pipes and held the fort while the Blue Jackets went to work at the other end of the rink.
Perhaps most encouraging for the Blue Jackets: they got big performances from their top players tonight.
The Jenner-Dubinsky-Gaborik line contributed eight points, was a +8 total and combined for 16 shots on goal, 10 of which came from Dubinsky's stick. Tim Erixon and Nick Foligno also had multi-point nights, picking up a couple of assists each while Jack Johnson led the way on defense with over 28 minutes logged.
1. MARIAN GABORIK (CBJ)
This performance was exactly what the Blue Jackets were looking for out of their star sniper: high-tempo and on the attack, a dangerous player whenever he had the puck. He had four shots on goal but gave the Hurricanes headaches all night long, and netted two beautiful goals with that lethal wrist shot.
2. BOONE JENNER (CBJ)
The youngster is certainly making a strong case to be on the Blue Jackets' opening night roster, and tonight was the second straight game in which he made a profound impact. He was a key cog in his line's success, working hard to retrieve pucks and play a physical game along the walls. He was rewarded with a goal and an assist and didn't make any friends on the Hurricanes.
3. BRANDON DUBINSKY (CBJ)
If there could be a template "Brandon Dubinsky" type of game, this game tape might be part of it. He was strong in all three zones, fired a game-high 10 shots on goal and won over 50 percent of his face-offs (53 percent). Dubinsky finished with three assists, a +3 rating and a whopping 22:48 TOI.
AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
CONSOL ENERGY CENTER
SATURDAY, 4 P.M.