For a team that once appeared almost invincible at home — and dominated the NHL for two full months — the Anaheim Ducks suddenly have slipped into mediocrity.
By contrast, the Columbus Blue Jackets have become one of the league’s hottest teams.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 saves, Nick Foligno scored twice in the third period and the inspired Blue Jackets also got goals from Ryan Johansen and R.J. Umberger in a 4-2 victory over the Ducks on Monday night.
“We are really playing to our identity right now,” Umberger said. “We are working hard. We are a gritty team.
“ We let our forecheck do the work for us. We don’t score too many pretty goals. We’re just kind of a team that grinds it out. We got rewarded with some rebounds and some deflections tonight. And we get big saves from Bob when we need them.”
The Blue Jackets are 11-0-3 since Jan. 6, a stretch that began with a franchise-record, eight-game winning streak.
Bobrovsky, last season’s Vezina Trophy winner, is 10-2-0 with a 2.17 goals-against average in his last 12 starts after missing 14 games because of a groin strain.
“They’re playing good hockey,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “I mean, if you watch the game tape, every time they touch the puck in their zone they chip it out and they go skate onto it.
“That was a solid road game they played. Right now we’re playing teams that are fighting for that last playoff spot, and those are things we’ve got to notice and take into account.”
Getzlaf and Mathieu Perreault scored for Anaheim. Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots.
The Ducks, who started 22-0-2 on home ice and enjoyed a comfortable lead atop the overall standings about two weeks ago, are 4-5-0 since Jan. 15 and have lost three of four on their five-game homestand. But they still lead Chicago by three points for the league’s best total with two games left before the Olympic break.
“If we were a .500 hockey club, this would be the norm. But it’s not,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It all boils down to will and want, and they wanted it a lot more than us.
“You could see it on the loose pucks. They were getting them and we weren’t. And anytime there was a 1-on-1 confrontation, I didn’t see us winning the battles. That’s a pure indicator, to me, that we didn’t have a sense of urgency.”
The Ducks host the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks tonight, less than three weeks after Chicago ended Anaheim’s phenomenal 18-1 surge with a 4-2 win at United Center.
“It’s never good to see Chicago because they’re a great team, but it’s probably great that Chicago’s coming in,” Boudreau said. “That’s maybe what we need, because if we don’t play up to our best level against a team like that, then we’re going to get our butts kicked.”