Last-place Blue Jackets beat NHL-best Stars 6-3
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets responded to coach John Tortorella’s public scolding and turned his tough talk into something positive.
Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky each tied a career high with three assists, and the last-place Blue Jackets beat the NHL-best Dallas Stars 6-3 on Tuesday night.
Boone Jenner, Kevin Connauton, Matt Calvert, Brandon Saad, Scott Hartnell and Rene Bourque scored for Columbus, which had lost three straight and eight of 10. That prompted Tortorella to call out his new team over the past several days.
“Obviously, he wants to make sure we are all understanding what’s going on here,” said Foligno, who surpassed 300 career points. “But I know first and foremost I’m not happy where we are. I take huge responsibility on that. I know we need to get better. I think it’s just focusing on what you bring.”
Curtis McElhinney made a season-high 39 saves, triggering praise from Tortorella, and 11 players had at least one point for the Blue Jackets.
Colton Sceviour, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp scored for Dallas. The Stars had their five-game point streak snapped (4-0-1).
“It was just a poor effort against a team that was desperate,” Dallas captain Jamie Benn said. “We knew their coach was challenging them today and we knew they were going to come out hard. It just started with the first shift.”
Kari Lehtonen allowed three goals on 14 shots in the first period and was replaced by Antti Niemi to start the second. Niemi finished with 18 saves.
The Blue Jackets seemed motivated by Tortorella’s straight talk — he said the club lacked veteran leadership and was weak mentally. Columbus got a goal from Jenner just 35 seconds in and jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first period.
“They want to feel good about the game,” Tortorella said. “When you have a start and get a couple of goals, you know how the game is going to go. It’s going to be one of those games.”
Later in the game, with the Blue Jackets holding one-goal leads both times, they turned in two critical penalty kills that sparked a pair of timely goals.
Not long after Dallas pulled within one in the second period, Hartnell took a slashing penalty in the attacking zone. But instead of hurting the Blue Jackets, it gave them a boost. Saad scored his 14th just more than a minute after the kill from in tight at 18:43 to make it 4-2.
“Huge penalty kill. Just blocking the shots ... I thought that was very important,” Tortorella said.
Hanging onto a 4-3 lead in the third period against the league’s highest-scoring team, the Blue Jackets killed off a holding-the-stick penalty to Saad. Just more than 3 minutes later, Hartnell scored his team-leading 15th into a vacated net after Niemi went past the hash marks to clear the puck but instead passed it directly to Hartnell.
“We had a couple that we had to kill off and the guys did a great job,” Dubinsky said.
Sharp scored his 14th only 1:12 into the third on a feed from Jason Spezza.
Bourque scored into an empty net with 15 seconds remaining.
Jenner whacked home a loose puck for his 13th in front of Lehtonen after several tries during a scramble.
Sceviour responded for Dallas at 6:03. McElhinney made a fantastic toe save on Antoine Roussel, but with Blue Jacket players scattered on the ice he flipped the rebound at the left side into the slot and Sceviour smacked a rolling puck with his backhand into the net.
Connauton made it 2-1 just more than a minute later with a one-timer from the right dot for his first goal in 33 games.
On a hustle play after puck-battle wins by Bourque and William Karlsson, Calvert fired a shot from the left circle that beat Lehtonen high at 18:35.
“I thought our team defense was probably the worst of the year,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We started off not defending, we had pockets of good defending. It was a team loss. Everybody was in on it.”
In a flash in the second period, Seguin pulled Dallas to 3-2 with his 21st. Streaking down the left side, Benn took John Klingberg’s long pass in stride across the blue line. He sent a short pass to Seguin, who wristed a hard shot from between the hash marks past McElhinney.
But the Columbus goalie was all smiles afterward.
“It’s been tough the last little while here,” he said. “A nice result at home.”
NOTES: Benn (3-6-9) and Sharp (3-6-9) extended their point streaks to six games. ... Foligno returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury. ... Stars RW Ales Hemsky left in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return. ... The Blue Jackets are 3-6-1 since G Sergei Bobrovsky went down with a groin injury. ... Dallas had not allowed more than three goals in 11 straight games.