Columbus Blue Jackets grind out 3-0 win in New Jersey

By Jim Cerny, The Sports Xchange   |   March 6, 2017 at 12:33 AM
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March 6 (UPI) -- NEWARK, N.J. -- Not every victory in the National Hockey League is a thing of a beauty.

The Columbus Blue Jackets proved that Sunday, skating to a less-then-thrilling yet effective 3-0 road win over the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

Both teams looked weary playing less than 24 hours after losing road games on Saturday night, but the Blue Jackets (41-17-6) persevered behind a 20-save shutout by Sergei Bobrovsky and two points apiece from Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sam Gagner.

"That's back-to-back games by both teams there, playing a 5 o'clock game after playing a night game, just slogging around," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "But I liked our structure. That's the most important thing in those types of games, to make sure you are playing well away from the puck and just try to keep it as simple offensively as you can."

Columbus is now 4-1-1 in their last six games and 6-2-1 in nine. The Devils (25-28-12) suffered their seventh consecutive defeat.

"There are no excuses," Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "They had the same schedule as we did with playing last night, and they came out and were better than us tonight. We need to find ways to win and find ways to be better."

After a sleepy and scoreless first period in which the teams combined for only 11 shots on goal, the Blue Jackets struck twice early in the second period to secure a 2-0 lead.

Boone Jenner opened the scoring with his 13th goal of the season at 2:45, muscling an in-tight shot past Devils goalie Cory Schneider.

Bjorkstrand doubled the Columbus lead nearly three minutes later when he took advantage of lax defensive play by the Devils to whistle his third goal of the season into the cage at 5:35.

Gagner, who assisted on Bjorkstrand's goal, buried a rebound at 8:56 of the third period to make it 3-0. Bjorkstrand returned the favor by assisting on Gagner's 16th goal of the season.

Bobrovsky posted his fifth shutout of the season and 17th of his career. While not challenged often, Bobrovsky did make solid consecutive saves on Kyle Stollery and Travis Zajac in the first period, and again on Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall in the second.

Perhaps his best stop came in the opening seconds of the third period when he exploded left to right to deny Hall's open power play look.

"We didn't do all that great a job of generating offense," said Palmieri, New Jersey's leading goal scorer with 20 this season. "We know they have a good goalie over there, and we know they play a pretty structured game. We just didn't do enough to get the Grade A opportunities, and that's what showed up on the scoresheet."

Bobrovsky has shutouts in consecutive starts and is now tied for fourth in the NHL in shutouts this season. He has allowed only three goals in his last four starts, keying Columbus' recent surge.

"I thought Bob played really solid early on (Sunday) and allowed us to find our game a little bit," Gagner said. "He has been phenomenal for us, but that is kind of expected in this room."

Bobrovsky's 34th win Sunday also established a franchise season record.

"It's obviously great, but there is the team in front of me, and they helped me a lot," Bobrovsky said. "I give big credit to them for that and thanks to them."

NOTES: Blue Jackets C Brandon Dubinsky collected the 400th point of his NHL career by assisting on Boone Jenner's game-opening goal. ... Devils D Dalton Prout and Blue Jackets D Kyle Quincey faced their former teams for the first time since being traded for one another last Wednesday. ... Blue Jackets RW Josh Anderson (lower body) left the game in the second period and did not return. ... The Devils recalled D Karl Stollery from Albany (AHL) on an emergency basis and activated C Pavel Zacha off IR. ... New Jersey scratched D Andy Greene (personal), LW Michael Cammalleri (upper body), C Jacob Josefson (upper body), D Damon Severson (upper body) and LW Miles Wood (lower body). ... The Blue Jackets scratched D Scott Harrington and D Markus Nutivaara. ... Columbus hosts New Jersey in the back end of the home-and-home set Tuesday night.

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