Canes Take 2-Game Series in Columbus

Cary, NC — Rod Brind’Amour was steadfast about the Canes’ effort in the two extra time losses in Raleigh, except for the poor start in the first period of the first game.

Every time he was asked about what was needed “to turn this around,” Roddy said, “Nothing. The execution was there, shots were there, opportunities were there and aside from a couple of strange things, nothing needs to change other than having pucks go in the net, which they will.”

How right he was as the level of play in the first game in Columbus was just like the last 2 in Raleigh but this time the score ended with the Canes winning 3-0 with Alex Nedeljkovic earning his second shutout, this time in front of family in his home state.

Game 1: Canes, Nedeljkovic Blank Jackets, 3-0

If there was any noticeable change it may have been on the Canes forechecking. Definitely better but not to say it was bad in the games in Raleigh, just every forward on every shift was locked in to make the night a miserable one for the Jackets.

Despite the score, the Jackets did have a good game and doled out 33 hits, to just 21 by the Canes, while playing tough along the boards. The Jackets had 4 hits before the Canes registered their first, of course by Cedric Paquette who also delivered a second hit, this time on Seth Jones, also blocking a hard slap shot by Jones. A great first shift for the newest Cane.

The Canes got the first man-advantage when Andrei Svechnikov dipsey doodled behind the net, drawing a tripping penalty by David Savard. The Canes’ first unit was looking good, getting off a couple of shots early on the powerplay.

With the puck rimming around the boards, Brett Pesce was facing the boards to snare the puck when Nick Foligno rammed Pesch viciously into the boards and should be thankful it was just a 2-minute minor giving the Canes 21 seconds of a 2 man advantage. The looks and shots were there but the Jackets’ defense and goalie Jonas Korpisalo made all the blocks and saves.

Skjei Nets First With The Canes

Whoever had Brady Skjei netting his first goal in the first goal pool made a bunch of money. Skjei is a gifted two-way defender and in a press interview, with that Madison Avenue smile, answered a question about if his lack of scoring is affecting his play, the smooth talker said it wasn’t but he sure would like to score.

He needs more interviews like that as not only did he score his first of the season and first as a Cane, but it also turned out to be the game-winner. Late in the game, he rang the pipes coming oh-so-close to his second of the season. The play was set up by Jesper Fast who carried the puck deep into the Jackets end making a button hook on the goal line.

Quickie passed up to Fishy who slapped one to the goal that Korpisalo kicked to the left. Jaccob Slavin is the one who passed up to Quickie then went for a line change with Skjei jumping over the boards to join in the play. Just as Skjei crossed the blue line the rebound was flat on the ice begging to be hammered home which is exactly what Skjei did for a good-looking goal.

The line of Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn and Warren Foegele had an excellent period, full of energy, great forechecking, fast, very fast on the puck while still being an offensive threat. In the first, the Canes had 11 shots on net while Ned was challenged with just 5. 

Fast, Necas Score Quality Goals

In the second period both teams picked up where they left off- the Jackets were hitting anyone wearing a white sweater and the Canes were quicker on the puck. The line of Sebastian Aho, Martin Necas and Nino Niederreiter were all on their game for both sides of the puck.

In the first minute of the period, with the puck in the Canes end, Fishy, Necas and Pesce all blocked shots within 30 seconds. Jordan Martinook got the Canes first penalty early in the first on an aggressive play that Brind’Amour would not be upset over.

Marty is a key on the man down defense but his PK buddies bailed him out with an effective kill of not allowing a shot on Ned. Svech had the puck behind the Jackets’ goal fighting for possession. Just as Svech was knocked into the boards he skooched the puck to Jordan Staal on the corner of the crease.

Jordo passed up to Pesch on the right point who wasted no time in releasing a slap shot that appeared to be going towards Korpisalo’s right but Quickie made a great deflection not only changing the trajectory but also the direction for a real skillful goal.

Just over two minutes later the Canes increased the lead to 3-0 with Dougie Hamilton leading the charge, bringing the puck across the Jackets’ blue line in the center area quickly passing over to Fishy on his right. Seeing the lane blocked Fishy looked for a shot, Fishy opted to pass to Necas racing down the high slot. Necas quickly passed back to Fishy, continued down Broadway getting a quick return pass that he slapped home for a quality goal.

Late in the period, Martinook got his second penalty of the game that had him scratching his head as Marty thought bumping Jack Roslovic was an innocent play but the ref called it interference. Marty is about as vocal a player the Canes have and in a hockey polite way informed the ref of his disagreement with the call.

Once again, Marty’s PK buddies bailed him out with another kill, this time allowing just one shot that Ned handled. 

Defense Strong, Nedeljkovic Gets 2nd Shutout

The third period for the Canes was all about playing cautious with the lead. Not that it was a game plan but more times it appeared just two forwards were going down deep with you the center hanging around the high slot to thwart any odd-man rush by the Blue Jackets.

The defense really hunkered down in the third taking the man over the puck most times forcing a turnover. Haydn Fleury was very strong along the boards and defense partner, Jake Bean using his skating and stick handling skills to clear the puck from their zone. The Jackets weren’t going down without a fight.

No team Torts coaches would and they had their best chances in the third matching the second period of 7 shots on net. It’s not that Ned wasn’t tested as the Jackets only were able to muster 19 shots but they had their chances ringing shots off the pipes at least twice with Ned making some other creative saves that had to have his family in attendance grinning with pride.

Tortorella is a realist and knew the way the Canes were playing defensively pulling the goalie for the impossible 3 goals in the waning minutes was futile and decided to accept the loss and play for another day. Strong win for the Canes that was a total team effort.

Skjei gets his first, which turns out to be the game-winner, the other two goals were pretty and Ned gets his second shutout in 8 starts, netting the Canes 4 points and the Jackets 4 points in the 3 games setting up Thursday’s game to be another exciting matchup. 

Game 2: Canes Win Finale, 4-3 In OT

There was little doubt that Alex Nedeljkovic would get his second consecutive start for the first time of his career after coming off an impressive shutout a couple of nights earlier. While only facing 19 shots in that game that was a gem by the entire defense corps, Ned would be well-rested and as what happens frequently is a coach will ride the hot goalie.

The Jackets lit the lamp first but the Canes came back with a quick answer from the fourth line then it was boiled down to who wanted this game more. The Jackets made a great last effort tying the game with seconds left with Sebastian Aho scoring the overtime game-winner. 

Nedeljkovic Still On His Game

Jackets coach, John Tortorella, is one of the most animated and vocal personalities in the NHL and lets players, sometimes on both teams, and ice officials know his opinion. He’s also an excellent coach that has a specific game plan for the team and each player.

After the last two games against the Canes, Torts commented the next game would have his team getting more pucks to the net. While it looked like the stifling Canes team defense would once again prevail on limiting shots in the first to only 8, possibly after the first period intermission reminder, the Jackets delivered posting more total shots—on goal, blocked and misses, than the Canes.

Without a doubt, Ned won the game for the Canes as many of his saves were outstanding. Eric Robinson and Max Domi might be losing sleep over not scoring as both had several breakaways going in alone on Ned, with the Canes netminder coming up with highlight-reel saves every time.

The Canes had their opportunities in the first with two powerplays but the #1 PP in the NHL just couldn’t get rolling on either one. The second man advantage was awarded during a penalty kill when Brady Skjei made a slick move to carry the puck over his blue line rather than slap it down the ice, drawing a tripping penalty to Jackets captain Nick Foligno, who, like Torts, isn’t bashful in letting officials they might have made a mistake.

The period ended with the Canes having the edge on shots, 14-8. 

Paquette, Necas Put Canes Up By 1

Number 88, Martin Necas at a home game earlier in the 2020 regular season.

The Jackets, Zach Werenski, scored the first goal of the game at 7:28. Werenski, who is like the Jacob Slavin of the Jackets, quiet, not flashy, but is a fantastic player is highly effective on both sides of the puck. The play started in the Jackets’ end when Seth Jones intercepted a pass by Andrei Svechnikov, knocking it over to Kevin Stenlund.

Stenlund passed to Werenski and seeing a majority of the Canes still in the Jackets zone, immediately took off with just Slavin on defense. Slavo waited as long as he could then went down to block a pass. Werenski faked a shot, passed in front of the crease to Stenlund for a tip-in that Ned blocked.

The puck was kicked to the backboards where Werenski picked it up, turned towards the goal and backhanded a shot off Ned’s blocker into the net. Needing a boost in energy, Rod Brind’Amour started the fourth line after the Jackets goal. Morgan Geekie won the faceoff drawing the puck to Dougie Hamilton who dumped the puck into the Jackets end.

Cedric Paquette got a quick shot that Jonas Korpisalo blocked to the boards. Paquette followed the shot with his specialty, a hard hit on Max Domi, that allowed Steve Lorentz control of the puck. Lori kept possession skating up the near side then passed over to Skjei on the left point. Skjei let go a one-timer into traffic that was blocked.

Paquette was in the dirty area above the crease, looked down and like the pivot players on a hockey game, turned and shoved the puck into the net for his first as a Cane. Late in the period the Jackets cleared the puck from their end and tried to lob a dump over the Canes defense. What they didn’t count on was Jake Bean being able to reach up to knock down the puck.

Svech tapped the loose puck over to Marty Necas in the high slot. Necas turned on his jets, lowered his left shoulder, went around behind the net at 30 mph, then went to his knees, turned his wrists forcing his stick to ‘cup’ the puck then whiplashed the puck into the net for a great looking goal. 

Niederreiter Gets Team Leading 14th, Aho Nets OT Winner

Early in the third Stenlund was going through the slot area with Bean in chase. Beaner, behind Stenlund, did what he could and attempted to lift Stenlund’s stick, all legal, but he ref called Beaner for holding. Not sure if the ref was in the right position to see Beaner did not even come close to Stenlund’s gloves which is a clear penalty.

The Canes PK was doing well clearing the puck but the Jackets wasted no time getting the puck back in the Canes end. On their last rush, Cam Atkinson had the puck along the near half boards, flung the puck towards the net with the puck hitting Hamilton’s knee then went directly into the net. No fault of Hamilton, just puck luck and credit the fast passing by the Jackets.

Roddy wasn’t happy with the Canes’ play as they were being outshot in the third as they were in the second so he decided to shake up the lines. Jordan Staal won a faceoff in the Jackets’ end drawing the puck to Hamilton at the right point.

Hamilton quickly passed over to Slavo who was open on the left, took a stride forward, saw there was traffic in front but rather than shoot, made a sweet pass to Nino Niederreiter who had position on his defender and his stick begging for the pass. Slavo obliged and Nino delivered to put the Canes up by 1 with less than 4 minutes to play. The Jackets once again pulled their goalie for 6 skaters.

With about 40 seconds in the game, Warren Foegele intercepted a pass at his own blue line, knocking it into the neutral zone. Foegs got a step on Seth Jones and went directly to the Jackets net. Jones is a fast skater and excellent defenseman, got close to Foegs then stretched around hitting Foegs on the gloves just as Foegs was shooting forcing the shot to go wide.

A clear penalty that according to the rules is an automatic goal when the goalie has been pulled but someone forgot to blow a whistle. Earlier in the week in another Central division game, a ref was fired when he was caught on tape saying he wanted to give a makeup call right after the call was made on a play that replays showed might not have been a penalty.

The Canes dominated the overtime taking the critical early possession with Svech sending a wrister shot with just 15 seconds gone that Korpisalo didn’t even know he saved. A couple of shifts later, with the play in the Canes end, Necas extended his stick to block a pass, picked up the puck and used his wheels to make a beeline to the net.

Necas faked forehand, went backhand, and Korpisalo blocked with the rebound going to the back right of the net. Necas got possession and passed down to Fishy streaking down Broadway who slammed it home for the game-winner.

Good win on a game that clearly could have gone either way.

Story by Bob Fennel. Photos courtesy of the Canes public Facebook page and Blue Jackets public Facebook page. See more Canes coverage on CaryCitizen

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