COLUMBUS, Ohio – Five days after disappointing a capacity crowd in their home opener, the Columbus Blue Jackets took a step toward winning back some fans.
They’ve got a lot of work to do, though.
Rick Nash scored two goals and Steve Mason stopped 31 shots to lead Columbus to a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night before 9,802 fans—the smallest home crowd in Blue Jackets history.
“Yeah, it was unfortunate we got embarrassed,” Nash said, referring to a lethargic, lopsided 5-2 loss to Chicago on Friday night. “The only way we’re going to win them back is by winning games. That was a good start tonight.”
Coach Scott Arniel said the Blue Jackets owed their faithful a good effort.
“We wanted to make amends for (what happened Friday),” the first-year coach said. “We held on a little bit in the third period, but we found a way to win.”
Derek MacKenzie also scored for the Blue Jackets, who had been pushed around by the Blackhawks in their home opener. Disgusted fans booed them after the second period and later booed a lacklustre power play.
“We played well,” said MacKenzie, who has goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his 69 NHL games. “Do we have room to improve? Yeah. There were a few parts in the game where we took penalties. Those are things on some nights that are going to catch up to us. For the most part the guys had a gritty, hardworking game.”
The previous low attendance for the Blue Jackets, in their 10th season, was 10,494, also against Anaheim on Oct. 27, 2008.
Teemu Selanne notched his 609th career goal for Anaheim, which was opening a four-game road swing.
Nash scored with the help of an opposing defenceman in the second period for a 2-0 lead, then drilled an empty-netter with 30 seconds left as the Ducks were turning up the pressure.
“We were trying not to (just hang on),” he said of the third period, when the Blue Jackets were outshot 12-6. “But they really turned it up. They started cheating (in the offensive zone) a lot more—and it was working.”
After a scoreless first, the Blue Jackets broke through when MacKenzie collected a loose puck and skated solo down the left wing. As defenceman Sheldon Brookbank pinched in, MacKenzie leaned in to keep him away from the puck, sliding it through Jonas Hiller’s leg pads for his second of the season.
Just 1:21 later, Nash appeared to be passing to Antoine Vermette at the right doorstep, but defenceman Toni Lydman tried to block the puck from getting through but instead deflected it in off his right hand and stick.
“We did some things very well but we made some mistakes,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “We give up a goal to MacKenzie, a slap shot into the pads; that’s a mistake. Then the next thing you know, Nash gets a goal and it kind of goes off our defenceman.”
The Blue Jackets killed off four straight minor penalties in the second period. The Ducks came in sixth in the NHL on the power play with a 26 per cent success rate, while Columbus was 24th on the kill at 76 per cent.
“The power play wasn’t effective tonight,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “Those things kill you in games. You have to win those special teams’ battles.”
Mason was solid throughout.
“We responded after they got the (Selanne) goal,” he said. “We did a really good job of blocking shots and making sure that the second opportunities that were there were taken away.”
NOTES: D Danny Syvret, recalled earlier this week from Syracuse (AHL) by Anaheim, played 21 shifts totalling 15:27 of ice time. … Columbus LW Ethan Moreau was hit by a shot at four minutes of the second period, breaking his hand. He did not return. … Selanne’s goal moved him to 16th on the career list, breaking a tie with Dino Ciccarelli.