The Blue Jackets, obviously huge fans of the dramatic, are headed into the Christmas break on their highest high of the season - and they have surprise starting goaltender Mike McKenna to thank.
Down 3-2 late in the third period at PNC Arena, the Blue Jackets saw a great start to the final stanza dissipate into disappointment after Alex Semin gave Carolina its first lead of the game midway through. The Hurricanes, who got their only offense (to that point) from the power play and in particular Jeff Skinner, got the lead goal on a bad bounce off the linesman's skate boot which created a 2-on-1 for Jordan Staal and Semin.
But unlike previous chapters of this season's story, the Blue Jackets penned an absolute thriller in the final minutes of regulation.
Nick Foligno, who almost didn't play in this game due to a stiff neck, took off on a mini-rush and fed Ryan Johansen down the right wing. Johansen made it happen once again, dropping to one knee and roofing his 15th goal of the season over Justin Peters to pull the Blue Jackets even with 4:02 to play in regulation.
But they weren't done there. Not in the least.
A few shifts later, Brandon Dubinsky zipped a cross-ice feed to James Wisniewski in the neutral zone and Wisniewski hit Artem Anisimov at the offensive blue line with a pass that caught the Hurricanes off-guard. Rather than shoot through traffic, Anisimov slid a behind-the-back pass to Jack Skille and Skille ripped his fourth goal in seven games short-side over Peters, giving Columbus a 4-3 lead with 2:34 to play.
Happy holidays, indeed.
Foligno said the Johansen goal really got the Blue Jackets fired up and re-engaged after giving up the 3-2 goal to Carolina earlier in the third period. Sometimes, a broken play can change a game and it certainly did tonight; Letestu made a quick backhand sweep of the puck out of the defensive zone and found Foligno breaking ahead, and as you've seen by now, Johansen brought the Blue Jackets back to all square.
1. ARTEM ANISIMOV (CBJ)
Anisimov opened the scoring with his 10th goal of the season, a goal that felt like years before that crazy finish. He made a great pass to Skille on the game-winner as well, and has picked it up offensively of late. Anisimov is up to 18 points in 37 games.
2. JEFF SKINNER (CAR)
Ten goals in the month of December is darn good and Skinner was electric for Carolina in this game. He scored twice and had multiple chances for the hat trick, and gave the Jackets fits all night.
3. RYAN JOHANSEN (CBJ)
His line with Foligno and Umberger had been held in check most of the night, but they cashed in on their best (and final) opportunity of the game. Johansen's team-leading 15th goal and 30th point was part of a furious and thrilling late rally.
AT NEW JERSEY DEVILS
FRIDAY, 7 P.M.