By Tom Williams
Poised to celebrate the confirmation that Columbus will shift to the NHL’s Eastern Conference next season, the Blue Jackets desperately engaged the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks in a furious overtime Thursday night at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets, who opened the extra session with a short power play, peppered goaltender Corey Crawford with seven shots. The Blackhawks responded with six on Sergei Bobrovsky. All were stopped.
But in the shootout, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane beat Bobrovsky, who finished with 39 saves in the Blue Jackets’ 2-1 overtime loss.
“ ‘Bob’ was just awesome for us,” said Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert after Columbus (10-12-5, 26 points) earned a point for the ninth straight game, a franchise record. “It was a good battle and a little disappointing not getting the two points.”
The win snapped Chicago’s two-game losing streak. Blackhawks rookie Brandon Saad, a Mahoning Valley Phantom in the 2008-09 season, had one shot on goal in his second game at Nationwide Arena. It came in the game’s first six seconds as Toews sprung him for an opening-faceoff breakaway.
Bobrovsky stopped it and every other Blackhawks shot except when streaking defenseman Johnny Oduya beat him late in the second period.
One minute later, Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson’s power-play goal tied the game.
Johnson called shootouts “a tough way to lose, a great way to win. On a positive note, we got one point in the standings and we’re still moving up in the right direction.”
In the third period, Bobrovsky (8-6-4) used his glove to stop Brandon Bollig from point-blank range.
In overtime, the first-year Blue Jacket was sprawled on the ice but was able to use his stick to foil Dave Bolland’s rebound attempt.
The Blackhawks (22-2-3, 47 points) won the season series with the Blue Jackets, 4-0. All games were decided by one goal.