Anisimov Powers Columbus Blue Jackets to Victory

Photo courtesy of bluejackets.nhl.com

Photo courtesy of bluejackets.nhl.com

By Tim Lucarelli (@tlucarelli)

Entering last night’s matchup, the Columbus Blue Jackets were 1-3-1 all time on Groundhog Day, and more specifically, 0-3-0 when Buckeye Chuck predicted an early spring. Although Buckeye Chuck once again predicted an early spring, the Blue Jackets put forth what was likely their strongest 60 minutes of hockey thus far this season and defeated the Red Wings 4-2.

The Red Wings took an early 1-0 lead, but James Wisniewski evened the score with a rocket from the point on a Columbus power-play late in the first. With nine seconds left to play in the first period, Detroit defenseman Kent Huskins took a cross-checking penalty, opening the door for Columbus to carry the momentum into the second.

Instead, the momentum appeared to be halted on the ensuing power-play as the crowd stood in silence after James Wisniewski took a scary fall into the boards. Coach Todd Richards confirmed in the post-game press conference that Wisniewski did in fact suffer a concussion.

Not missing a beat, Artem Anisimov tallied his first of the night shortly thereafter on an amazing, highlight-reel goal that re-energized both the team and the crowd. Anisimov collected a turnover from Niklas Kronwall, then cut back on Jonathan Ericsson, before firing a laser above Howard’s shoulder. Anisimov capped off the second period with his second of the night, showing patience and ultimately a fair amount of confidence, as he waited out goaltender Jimmy Howard and with a quick deke, slid a backhander into the open net.

In the third, Anisimov had an opportunity for the hat trick, but elected to make an unselfish pass to R.J. Umberger, who drove the net hard and was called for goalie interference. Rather than allowing Detroit to get back into the game though, the Columbus penalty-kill, which was strong all night, responded with a shorthanded tally. Brandon Dubinsky came down the left wing boards and hit the streaking Mark Letestu for Letestu’s third of the season.

Said Letestu after the game, “Dubi was hollering so I gave him the puck and just drove the net.” With a smirk on his face, he added, “It was a lucky one. He stoned me cold there in the second, so I guess I got even.”

Steve Mason, who has three career shutouts against Detroit, looked strong from start to finish, posting 32 saves in the win. After the game, Mason said, “The guys did a great job stepping up with the extra ice time that was handed out due to losing [Wisniewski], and you couldn’t be more happy with the way the guys played tonight.” He added, “It was the first real 60-minute effort we’ve been looking for.”

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In the post-game press conference, asked who he might be calling on to step up in Wisniewski’s absence, coach Richards hinted that Nikita Nikitin may be ready to return for Tuesday’s game against Los Angeles, but that no decision had been made on a potential recall from Springfield. If they do choose a recall, the most likely candidates from Springfield would likely be Nick Holden, the team’s top-scoring active defenseman or Cody Goloubef, Columbus’ second-round pick from 2008.

Jack Johnson logged 34:59 of ice time, breaking his own franchise record. Asked how he felt about the added ice time, Johnson said, “It’s a lot easier to do this with [Wisniewski] than without him, but I’ve had nine months to get ready for this and that’s why you train in the summer. I feel great and just keep telling the coach to just keep putting me out there.”

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