Jackets snap brief skid with win vs. Leafs
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After two consecutive road losses that John Tortorella called clunkers, the Columbus Blue Jackets hunkered down and came back home with a response their coach appreciated.
Defenseman Seth Jones scored an unassisted goal and assisted on a rare Columbus power-play goal to help the Blue Jackets end a two-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena.
A 7-2 loss in Boston on Monday night to the Bruins was, the players admitted, one of the Blue Jackets’ worst efforts of the season. So it was important for them to straighten out some of their issues.
“I thought tonight we answered the proper way and it wasn’t without mouths, it wasn’t rah-rah,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “It was about playing. I thought we played hard. I thought we were harder to play against.”
Jones’ goal came in the first period, and he also was credited with an assist on Pierre-Luc Dubois’ second-period goal. In the past four games, Jones has three goals to give him six for the season and 19 points.
“It’s been kind of a tough week,” Jones said. “A couple of bad losses. It’s nice to get back on the winning side. We just looked like a different team. we were doing all the right things away from the puck and it gives us opportunities to score goals.”
The Blue Jackets (21-13-1), who entered the night with the NHL’s lowest-ranked power play at 10.2 percent, even produced a goal with the man-advantage, going 1 of 2.
“We needed to get our confidence back and it starts with making simple plays,” Jones said.
Jones didn’t have normal defensive partner Zach Werenski alongside him but still managed to make an impact on the outcome. Werenski missed the game with an undisclosed injury.
“I look at Seth Jones tonight (and) he was a leader,” Tortorella said. “I thought our veteran guys played well.”
The Maple Leafs’ goals came from Jake Gardiner in the second period and Mitch Marner in the third period of Toronto’s second game in two days. Gardiner also had an assist.
It was the first of five straight on the road for Toronto (21-14-1), which had routed the Carolina Hurricanes 8-1 at home the day before. But coach Mike Babcock didn’t use the back-to-back as an excuse.
“Defensively, I didn’t think we competed hard enough,” Babcock said. “I thought their team competed harder than us.”
Fourth-line center Lukas Sedlak gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead at 12:57 of the first period when he spun around in the slot after taking a pass from the boards by Matt Calvert. The hard wrist shot slipped past Toronto goaltender Curtis McElhinney for Sedlak’s fourth goal of the season.
Jones made it 2-0 at 18:45 of the first with a heady play. He stuck his outstretched stick in front of a Toronto pass and skated three-quarters the length of the ice for the unassisted goal just after a Maple Leafs power play ended.
Gardiner closed the gap to 2-1 at 4:26 of the second period with his goal from left circle after a pass from William Nylander.
Dubois’ score six minutes later re-established the Blue Jackets’ two-goal lead on a power play.
“Tough way to get out of the gate,” McElhinney said. “It’s tough to be down 2-0 on back-to-backs. ... They got that third one (and) that was kind of the difference-maker.”
Alexander Wennberg gave Columbus some extra cushion with a goal in the third period with help from the second of Cam Atkinson’s two assists in the game.
Marner made it a two-goal game again with 2:57 left, but the Blue Jackets held on from there.
“For the most part, I thought we kept our foot on the gas pedal and tried to score the next goal,” Atkinson said. “We knew that they were going to come, especially after the first and going to the third period. I thought we did a good job to find a way to get a win.
Joonas Korpisalo was in goal for the Blue Jackets after Sergei Bobrovsky started the previous eight games. Korpisalo made 39 saves in his first start since Dec. 1 and improved his season record to 4-3-0.
McElhinney finished with 33 saves in his first start since he shut out the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 10.
“Not good enough,” Babcock said.
NOTES: Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews missed his sixth consecutive game with an upper-body injury. He participated in the team’s morning skate, and he could return soon. ... Blue Jackets D Zach Werenski sat out for the first time this season with an undisclosed injury. Werenski, who leads all NHL defensemen in goals with 10, had taken several maintenance days during recent practices. ... With Werenski out of the lineup, D Gabriel Carlsson was recalled from Cleveland of the American Hockey League. Carlsson has one assist in 10 games with the Blue Jackets this season. ... Maple Leafs LW James van Riemsdyk scored the 20,000th goal in franchise history on Tuesday in an 8-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. ... The Blue Jackets reassigned F Tyler Motte to Cleveland. He has one goal and one assist in 19 games for Columbus this season.