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Mark Scheig The Hockey Writers

Published on Sunday, March 19, 2017

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Blue Jackets Clinch Third Ever Playoff Birth

The Columbus Blue Jackets took care of business Sunday in Newark.

Thanks to their 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, the Blue Jackets punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They join the Washington Capitals as the only teams to clinch a spot to this point.

Recapping Sunday

In one of the strangest games you’ll ever see, the Blue Jackets used a pair of penalty-shot goals and a shorthanded goal to go ahead for good. Lukas Sedlak, who rejoined the lineup after Alexander Wennberg was held out as a precaution, opened the scoring thanks to a penalty shot. Sedlak raced up the ice only to get hauled down before letting his shot go. He then made no mistake in beating Cory Schneider to make the score 1-0.

Then in one of the best penalty-killing shifts of the season, Boone Jenner made the score 2-0. He used his best pool table skills and banked the puck off Schneider after effectively killing most of the Devils’ power play by himself.

Just seven seconds after Jenner’s bank shot, Adam Henrique converted a power-play goal to cut the Blue Jackets’ lead to 2-1. John Tortorella challenged the play thinking the Devils were offside. Although it was close, the call on the ice stood. The Blue Jackets played the rest of their game without their timeout. It didn’t affect them at all.

Josh Anderson found himself with a breakaway only to get hauled down. But he crashed into the post and had to leave the game for a small time. Therefore, someone who was on the ice at the time of the call had to take the shot. Tortorella tried sending Sam Gagner in, but since he wasn’t on the ice, Brandon Dubinsky stepped in. He buried the shot in the same way Sedlak did earlier. The score was 3-1.

Then came time for Sergei Bobrovsky to shut the door on the Devils. The Devils could not get another puck by Bobrovsky the rest of the game. Bobrovsky finished with 34 helping him earn his league-leading 39th win of the season, three more than anyone else.

To put into perspective how strange Sunday’s game was, it was just the third time in NHL history that a team scored two penalty-shot goals in the same game. The Vancouver Canucks did it in 1982 and the San José Sharks did it in 2009. It was also the third time in Blue Jackets history that they’ve scored two shorthanded goals in the same game. They accomplished that in both 2007 and 2011.

Just the Beginning

Clinching a playoff spot is a feather in the cap for the Blue Jackets. They’re in this for so much more. Sunday’s win puts them in a tie with the Capitals for first in the Metropolitan. As of this writing, the Capitals own the tiebreaker thanks to the way the league handles head-to-head matchups. Because of having more games in D.C. to this point, the first game there, a 3-2 Blue Jackets win, doesn’t count in determining head-to-head.

The Penguins also won Sunday keeping them one point back of both the Blue Jackets and Capitals in the standings.

This race will go to the bitter end to see who gets the President’s Trophy and home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Whoever finishes third will likely open on the road thanks to the current playoff setup.

The Blue Jackets and Capitals have two more games this season, including one in Washington on Thursday. The Blue Jackets are happy to clinch a playoff spot, but will be much happier if they finish first.

Clear your schedules. The Columbus Blue Jackets will have playoff hockey in Nationwide Arena this season. Who saw that coming in September?


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