Sergei Bobrovsky's finest stop of the night was a glove-handed robbery of JT Brown just 4:13 into the third period. The bad news (at least for tonight), is that it was the last save he made in the game.
The only damper on a hard-fought, 1-0 Blue Jackets victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning was Bobrovsky's apparent lower-body injury suffered on the play. While there was no contact made, Bobrovsky remained on the ice in pain and had to helped off the ice by the Blue Jackets athletic training staff and two of his teammates. Curtis McElhinney, fresh off a 33-save effort in Boston on Saturday but pretty comfortable since the pre-game warmup tonight, had less than a minute to get his gear on and enter the game.
It was a tough spot in what coach Todd Richards called "a really, really big game" for the Blue Jackets, but the veteran netminder stepped in and stepped up when his team needed him.
McElhinney made a pair of top-notch stops - including a side-to-side sliding stop on Martin St. Louis late in regulation - preserve the victory and earn a team shutout for the Blue Jackets. He stopped all eight shots he faced in a third period that featured several prolonged spurts by the Lightning, who were frustrated all night long by the Blue Jackets' forecheck and persistent defending.
There was one goal scored in the game, and it was a beauty: Nick Foligno's seventh of the season was scored on a nifty between-the-legs dangle, all set up by a timely steal by Ryan Johansen late in a shift. Foligno cut back to the middle, seemingly ran out of room, but pulled the stick between his legs and fired the puck back to the other side of the net.
Never in doubt, right?
After an early minor penalty to Corey Tropp (5:16 into the game), the Blue Jackets did not take another penalty until 15:14 of the third period - and it was hardly a penalty at that. Columbus was up against it: the back-up goalie into the game cold, a Tampa club pressing for the tying goal, and a late third-period power play. The Blue Jackets penalty kill did the job, and limited the Lightning to just two shots on two combined power play opportunities.
1. NICK FOLIGNO (CBJ)
The Blue Jackets have had several players step up in the wake of injuries, but Foligno has been one of their most consistent. He scored the game-winner in thrilling fashion, yes, but he was part of a stout line with Umberger and Johansen that had the puck a lot in this game. Foligno played 19:53 and was +1.
2. BLAKE COMEAU (CBJ)
Brandon Dubinsky said post-game that Comeau's physical play was a huge factor in the game, "wearing down" the Lightning defense with hit after hit on the forecheck. Comeau played 14:36 and set a new team record with 11 hits in the game.
3. SERGEI BOBROVSKY (CBJ)
The highlight of his night was the glove save on Brown's breakaway bid, but Bobrovsky was strong for the Blue Jackets before sustaining the injury. He made 18 saves with a couple grade-A stops mixed in, and gave his team every chance to win the game.
VS. MINNESOTA WILD
FRIDAY, 7 PM