BC-HKN--Canadiens-Blue Jackets,1st Ld-Writethru
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Trailing Montreal by two points in the standings, the Columbus Blue Jackets desperately needed a win over the Canadiens to keep their playoff hopes alive. A disappointing start turned into a decisive victory that got them back on the right side of the Eastern Division wild-card line.
The Blue Jackets spent the first 10 minutes of the game out of sorts and trying to get a single shot off. The goals started coming in the second period, and Columbus cruised to a 6-2 win over Montreal on Thursday night.
The Blue Jackets, winners of three straight, moved into a tie with the Canadiens for the second Eastern Division wild card, and they hold the tie-breaker, so will hold onto that spot for now. Carolina, which lost to Washington on Thursday, is one point ahead in the first slot.
“We’re just trying to keep our foot on the gas,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said.
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky had 28 saves for Columbus. David Savard, Artemi Panarin, Riley Nash and Brandon Dubinsky also scored.
Brett Kulak had a goal and an assist, and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which was 4-0-1 in the last five before the Columbus trip. Carey Price finished with 24 saves.
“It ain’t over,” Petry said. “As much as this one hurts, we know we still have a chance.”
Columbus struggled to clear the puck from its defensive zone early in the game, let alone get a decent shot attempt. Meanwhile, Kulak snapped in a shot from the point 1:15 in, the first goal against Bobrovsky in three games.
Savard tied the game early in the second with a one-timer from the high slot past Price’s glove. Montreal went up while the teams were playing 4-on-4 at 8:36 in the second with a shot from the doorstep by Petry that was initially stopped but trickled past the line off Bobrovsky.
Bjorkstrand’s redirection of a shot by Seth Jones knotted the game again. Columbus went ahead to stay 5:36 into the second when Panarin scored on a one-timer from the left circle off a splendid cross-ice pass from Matt Duchene.
“We just had a little bit of a slow start, and they came out flying more than we did,” said Bjorkstrand, who has scored in three straight games and four of his last five. “The positive thing is we found a way to bounce back. I think halfway through the (first) period we started taking it up, and I think the second period we really took a big step.”
Nash got his first goal in 49 games early in the third period when he got a breakaway and put back his own rebound. Bjorkstrand got his second goal of the night when Dean Kukan got loose with the puck and fed him in front of the Montreal net. Dubinsky added an empty-netter with 3:11 left.
“We hung in there, but they got better and the game went on and we didn’t,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said. “That’s pretty much the story of tonight. A lot of mistakes.”
NOTES: Montreal F Paul Byron didn’t make the trip after suffering an upper-body injury in a fight with Florida’s MacKenzie Weegar on Tuesday. Nicolas Deslauriers took Byron’s spot in the lineup. ... Montreal F Andrew Shaw played his 500th NHL game, and F Max Domi played in his 300th. ... Columbus D Andrew McQuaid went out after a monster hit from Shaw in the second period and did not return.
Montreal: Saturday at Winnipeg.
Columbus: Saturday at Nashville.
Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports