Blue Jackets 4, Hurricanes 3: Holiday cheer

Skille, Johansen score late to secure victory on the road

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Karl B. D eBLAKER | Associated Press
The Blue Jackets’ Jack Skille celebrates his go-ahead goal as the Hurricanes’ Brett Bellemore (73) and Tuomo Ruutu (15) skate away during the third period. Skille scored after taking a behind-the-back feed from Artem Anisimov.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Last week, in the midst of a month marked by healthy scratches and yo-yo trips to minor-league Springfield, Blue Jackets forward Jack Skille sat at his locker stall at Nationwide Arena and said, confidently and sincerely, that he was playing his best hockey in recent memory.

It seemed strange then. But last night, after a 4-3 Blue Jackets win over the Carolina Hurricanes, it rang true.

Skille took a behind-the-back feed from center Artem Anisimov and scored the winning goal with a short-sided snipe with 2:34 remaining in the third period.

“I had it right on my tape,” said Skille, who was playing just his second game in 20 days. “I just ripped it. It went right where I wanted it.”

That goal, and one scored by Ryan Johansen less than two minutes earlier, put the injury-riddled Blue Jackets in high spirits heading into a three-day holiday break. The comeback win, on the road against a division opponent, helped the Blue Jackets keep pace in the tight Metropolitan race.

“It was a great win,” coach Todd Richards said. “It was a huge game. These guys (the Hurricanes) were ahead of us in the standings. These are two points that we needed.”

Anisimov had a goal and an assist, Corey Tropp scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket, and Mark Letestu had two assists. Jeff Skinner scored a pair of power-play goals for Carolina, which took a 3-2 lead on an Alexander Semin goal at 9:06 of the third. At that point, the Blue Jackets were having trouble moving the puck from their zone, much less generating any scoring chances.

The Blue Jackets were 0 of 5 on the power play. The Hurricanes were 2 of 6 and striding up a mountain of momentum after Semin scored what felt like the clincher after a loose puck skittered off the skate of an official and onto the stick of Jordan Staal, who fed Semin for an emphatic finish in front of the net.

“The ice was tilted,” Richards said. “It’s a credit to our players for sticking with it.”

But Letestu sprang Nick Foligno on an odd-man rush through the neutral zone that Johansen finished with a wrist shot from his knees. Skille struck moments later.

“It seemed there we couldn’t make a pass, couldn’t create anything,” Johansen said. “But then Mark made a great play to Nick and over to myself there. And then Skillsy putting that one in, it was a beauty. Huge, huge. We needed these points bad. Going into the break, this feels great.”

Blue Jackets goalie Mike McKenna made 30 saves in his third start since being recalled from minor-league Springfield on Dec. 5 and his first since regular backup Curtis McElhinney returned from a lower-body injury last week. McElhinney’s back tightened up before the game. McKenna was a last-minute replacement.

“You try not to be surprised because you just never know what can happen,” McKenna said. “I just try to be as fundamentally strong as I can so that when you have to do something out of the ordinary it doesn’t feel that way.”

McKenna preserved the win by saving a snap wrist shot from Skinner with 14 seconds remaining.

“You just try to get in front of it,” he said. “That late, you’re just so locked on it, it all comes natural. You’re not thinking about specifics.”



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