Beautifully Ugly (Devils in These Details, 02.20.18)

Photo by Debby Wong

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


NEWARK, NJ — The final 40 minutes of tonight’s game saw the Columbus Blue Jackets produce all of six shots. However, the most important number ended up being two: the number of points Columbus earned after a hard-fought victory, and that’s all that mattered to head coach John Tortorella.

Defenseman Scott Harrington scored just his second goal of the season – one of just two shots Columbus had in the second period – and it proved to be the game-winning goal as the Blue Jackets defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-1 at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night. It was a game that could easily have been described as an ugly victory, but when one is fighting for playoff positioning, like the Blue Jackets are in the Eastern Conference, there will always be beauty in the imperfections, as long as it results in a victory.

“I categorize that as a win,” said the always colorful John Tortorella, head coach of the Blue Jackets. “That’s all we’re concerned about right now is finding ways to get two points.”

Columbus earned the two points despite the ice clearly being tilted in the Devils’ favor, especially in the last two periods, when New Jersey outshot the Blue Jackets 20-6. Goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky was able to keep the Devils at bay, making 30 saves and only allowing a game-tying second-period goal to Taylor Hall.

The win, no matter how it came, allowed Columbus to leap over the New York Islanders and Carolina Panthers and into the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“As I said, you win games different ways,” said Tortorella. “We have lost some games when we’ve been lights out. Tonight, we win a game when, for a number of minutes, we had struggles. But you take the two points and get the hell out of town.”

Those two points came because of the shot from Harrington, who took a backhand pass from Artemi Panarin and blasted a shot past Devils goalkeeper Keith Kinkaid at the 13:10 mark of the second period. For Harrington, it was only his second goal of the season.

“I was just trying to get open,” said Harrington. “I saw [Panarin] pick up the puck there. I think [the Devils] may have been changing a couple of guys on their team so I tried to get up. I think we had a couple of guys driving the net, so I just tried to find a hole. He made a great dish on his backhand. I didn’t think he’d see me, but he made a great play.”

Harrington’s only other goal of the season also came against the Devils, and, like tonight, it was also on the road, in the second period, and was assisted by Panarin.

“I almost started laughing right after it went in,” said Harrington. “I know [Panarin] was on the other side last time, but the same spot for me. Same building, same period, so it’s pretty funny but I’ll take it.

Despite the six combined shots in the last two periods, Tortorella was not disappointed overall in the team’s performance, which did see the Blue Jackets put 13 shots on goal in the first period and score first – Boone Jenner’s shot from in close, his sixth of the season, at the 5:19 mark of the first period.

“I thought our first period was really good, but we just couldn’t sustain that,” said Tortorella. “But we did do some good things away from the puck.

“It’s two points,” Tortorella continued. “I don’t care how we get it, it’s two points.”

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