CALGARY – After a 7-0 shellacking the night before in Edmonton, Columbus coach Todd Richards challenged his team to do better. It worked.
Defenceman Nikita Nikitin scored his first goal of the season 2:25 into overtime Wednesday night to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.
“As a coach, you go in and challenge your group,” said Richards. “There were some questions I had coming out of the Edmonton game. To me, they responded the right way.”
With a delayed penalty coming to the Flames forward Jiri Hudler for goaltender interference, Columbus carried the puck back up ice and poured on the pressure as Sergei Bobrovsky skated to the bench for an extra skater.
After Artem Anisimov was stopped by Calgary goalie Reto Berra, the puck came to David Savard, who had a shot blocked by Mikael Backlund. However, the puck caromed out to Nikitin who had an empty net with Berra down and out.
“Nikita, as far as the way he played, it might have been his best game,” said Richards, who was pleased with the entire team’s performance.
“They came out and they played hard. Ran out of gas a little bit towards the end. I thought we battled. We got the win. They way they are playing out on the ice, I think the attitude is real positive.”
After the game-winning goal went in, the Flames first-year goaltender repeatedly pounded his glove into the ice.
“It was great how we came back, but at the end it was bad luck,” said Berra, who had 16 saves in falling to 2-4-2.
Nick Foligno also scored for Columbus (8-11-3). The Blue Jackets are 2-1-0 with two stops left on a five-game road trip. They play in Vancouver on Friday.
“We just had too many mental lapses last night and it cost us,” said Blue Jackets centre Ryan Johansen. “It’s nice to be able to forget about that now. Coming in here tonight and doing all those little things right in our defensive zone.”
Joe Colborne scored the lone goal for Calgary (7-11-4). Coming off an emotional 5-4 shootout victory in Winnipeg on Monday night, the Flames have lost three straight at home and are winless in their last six (0-5-1) at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“I don’t think it was the most exciting game, especially when they scored early. I think they would have been happy to go home with a 1-0 road win …,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “The bottom line is it’s pretty tough to win when you only have one line going. Matt Stajan’s line was by far our best line and we didn’t get enough from the other three.”
Besides the trio of Stajan, Michael Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak, the other notable highlight for the Flames was Berra’s spectacular first period save off Jack Johnson.
Johnson looked like he had all sorts of open net to shoot at but Berra came across and, using his entire six-foot-four frame, stretched out and spectacularly kicked the puck out of the air like a bicycle kick in soccer.
Before the game had ended, the video of it was already up on the NHL’s website with the headline “Save of the year?”
“I was too far out. I thought (Johansen) was going to shoot, then he passed it,” Berra said. “So I was way too late and I had nothing else that I could do. I just tried to bring something from my body there and it hits me right on my skate. That was for sure luck, too.”
Berra made his eighth start in his last nine games for the Flames. He made 16 stops to fall to 2-5-1.
Columbus opened the scoring shortly after when Foligno’s slapshot deflected off the leg of Flames defenceman TJ Brodie, the sudden change in direction sending it into the top corner behind Berra.
The game remained that way until Calgary tied the game 3:28 into the third period when Colborne got behind Johnson and on a breakaway tucked a backhand over the shoulder of Bobrovsky.
It was the only shot that got past Bobrovsky of the 24 he faced on the night.
“To have have a chance to play right away, to reset, it’s good,” said Bobrovsky, who was pulled against Edmonton after the fourth goal. “You don’t think about the game before. It was a bad game. You have a chance to win and you get that good feeling again.”
After winning the Vezina Trophy last year as the NHL’s best goalie, Bobrovsky has not had nearly the same success this season with a 7-9-2 record.
Notes: The Blue Jackets were without Brandon Dubinsky, who suffered a bruised foot against Edmonton. Recently recalled Jack Skille took his spot … Columbus LW Matt Calvert (lower body) is back practising and he could return Friday. He’s missed 19 games … Bobrovsky has given up four-or-more goals six times this season. That happened only five times all of last year … Calgary is 6-3-4 in one-goal games.