COLUMBUS, Ohio – After weeks of finding a way to lose, all of a sudden the Columbus Blue Jackets seem to have found some answers.
Jake Voracek, a healthy scratch in the last two games because of a lack of production, scored an unassisted goal off a quirky bounce off the back boards in overtime to give the Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.
“It was a tough stretch but I got a couple of workouts in,” the third-year winger from Czech Republic said about his exile from the lineup. “I tried to get ready for today’s game. I’m happy I could help the team to win.”
After going 3-9-3 from Nov. 26 to Dec. 26, the Blue Jackets have won three in a row. During that month of losses, coach Scott Arniel tried to shake up things by sitting some of the club’s top players. That approach seems to have helped the team out of its funk.
A lucky break sure helped.
The puck took a big ricochet and Ottawa’s Alex Kovalev and Chris Campoli were unable to corral it. Voracek swooped in and forced the puck between goalie Brian Elliott’s leg pads 2:06 into overtime.
“I was just happy to get a win. (We had) two wins in a row when I was a healthy scratch,” said Voracek, who also had an assist. “I was a little scared I wouldn’t be back in the lineup.”
Voracek’s goal touched off a wild celebration on the ice and sent a crowd of 17,652 home happy. They were not pleased to have their New Year’s Eve revelry delayed by Daniel Alfredsson’s goal with 1:11 left in regulation that pushed the game into overtime.
“We showed a lot of character,” Senators coach Cory Clouston said. “Through (half of) the second period, we had seven or eights shots to their none. We worked hard against a good team that skated well. We’re happy with the point, but we’re disappointed with the loss.”
Mike Fisher and Nick Foligno also scored for the Senators, who dominated play for most of the last two periods but continue to be undone by a lack of offence. They are in 27th in the NHL with 89 goals.
The victory came one night after Columbus’ 3-2 win in Toronto that ended a seven-game winless skid on the road. The Blue Jackets have won five of their last seven at home.
But they were dog tired in the third period.
“Fatigue was a big factor for us,” Arniel said. “It was throughout our whole lineup. We found a way. We hung around and did what we had to do. Jake found an opportunity and persevered.”
R.J. Umberger, Rick Nash and Samuel Pahlsson provided a 3-0 lead for the Blue Jackets. Steve Mason, who took much of the blame for the Blue Jackets’ slide earlier in December, had 35 saves.
Arniel was encouraged by the strong efforts by Mason and Voracek, both of whom had made visits to his doghouse in the past few weeks.
“Gradually you see (Mason’s) confidence again and that is the first step to him being a good goalie. He’s done a good job in the last three games,” Arniel said. “With Jake, I am going to tell him the same thing I told Mase and others that I’ve pulled out. He played a great game coming back and now he’s got to do it again. … It’s about what happens in the remaining 40 games of the year. All that is part of maturity and growth you look for in players.”
After Umberger opened the scoring on a one-timer off a 3-on-2 break, the Senators offered up a gift goal when Chris Phillips lost control of the puck as he was skating through his own crease. Columbus’ Chris Clark poked it away from Phillips with Pahlsson converting.
Nash then scored off a nifty pass from Kristian Huselius on an odd-man rush.
The Senators kept the puck in their offensive zone for long segments of the third period while applying pressure. They nearly tied it when Kovalev’s wrist shot from the left dot with just over eight minutes left rang off the far post.
“They made mistakes. We made mistakes. They capitalized on ours,” Clouston said.
NOTES: Columbus D Jan Hejda played his 300th NHL game. … The Senators have scored more than three goals only once in their last 24 starts. … The Blue Jackets improved to 2-5-0 in their third jersey. … Columbus came in with the worst home power play in the NHL and was 0 for 4. … Vermette picked up his 100thpoint in his 136th career game with Columbus.