The Columbus Blue Jackets organization has been in the National Hockey League since the beginning of the 2000-01 season, and before this past campaign they were in the Western Conference with one playoff series recorded – a 2009 sweep at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup finalist Detroit Red Wings.
Last night the Jackets entered Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup against the Metropolitan Division favourite Pittsburgh Penguins. With the series already 1-0 in favour of the Pens, a second straight loss in Pennsylvania would’ve put the Columbus Blue Jackets in an uncomfortable hole, down two games to none.
Goals by Penguins defenceman Matt Niskanen and forward Brian Gibbons (2) gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead after the first frame, and it looked like Pittsburgh’s offence — which is their strength — was going to be too much for the Jackets to overcome. Not so.
In the second period, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma trucked four forwards over the boards on a Penguins power play, hoping to seal the deal and bury the Jackets with a fourth goal that would’ve extended the lead to 4-1. The plan backfired when Jackets penalty killer Matt Calvert scored a short-handed marker to draw his club within one. And then the Jackets chipped away.
In the third period, Jackets defenceman Jack Johnson tied the game for his club, sending Game 2 into overtime, giving the CBJ a shot at a climatic first ever franchise playoff victory. In the second overtime, they got their goal, win, and monkey off their back.
Watch history, courtesy of the NHL’s YouTube Channel:
The Blue Jackets’ first goal was a blast by young centre Ryan Johansen, who looks to be a franchise player on the rise. Johansen scored 30 goals this season as a 21-year-old. He’s a big centre with great skill and good skating ability, not unlike Mats Sundin before him.
The overtime win, the emergence of Johansen – this is the best time in Blue Jackets history. They may not beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, but the evidence is clear: the Columbus Blue Jackets are a franchise on the rise, and it’s nice to see.