Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Blue Jackets enjoy sound of victory

By Kevin Gorman
April 19, 2017
Josh Anderson #34 of the Columbus Blue Jackets slides the puck through the five hole of Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins for a goal during the first period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 18, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
When there is talk of a team on the brink of elimination needing a sense of desperation, it's often about smell — as if there is an accompanying odor.
For John Tortorella, it's the sense of sound.
On the verge of being swept in this first-round series, the Columbus coach wanted his Blue Jackets to hear the “(expletive) radio” after Game 4 and jam in their dressing room at Nationwide Arena.
Torts got his wish when the Blue Jackets beat the Penguins, 5-4, Tuesday night.
As Columbus came off the ice, strength coach Kevin Collins had what Tortorella called the “crap” electronic dance music of Swedish DJ Avicii blaring on speakers.
“It's good to come in after a win,” said Columbus right wing Brandon Saad, a Pine-Richland graduate. “Everyone's cheering and high-fiving and then you've got the music going with our ‘win song.' ”
That win song — the title of which the Blue Jackets wouldn't reveal — was played for the first time in these Stanley Cup playoffs, following their first-ever postseason victory in regulation and only the second playoff victory in the history of this building.
The Blue Jackets know their celebration will be short-lived. Where the odds of winning Game 4 were almost a coin flip, their chances of claiming this series are akin to holding a winning Powerball ticket.
Columbus still trails this best-of-seven series 3-1 and plays the reigning Stanley Cup champions Thursday in Game 5 at PPG Paints Arena.
“I wasn't even thinking about the series,” Tortorella said. “I was thinking about the players that have put in a lot of time. They've gone through a transformation here to play as a team.
“To have gone through a regular season like they had and not get to enjoy what it is to win a playoff game ... I just wanted them to see what it's like to win a playoff game with this team together.”
Of course, Tortorella also didn't buy into a need for drastic changes to alter the course of the outcome.
Tortorella inserted defensemen Markus Nutivaara and Kyle Quincey — healthy scratches for the first three games — for the injured Zach Werenski and the ineffective Scott Harrington.
Left wing Matt Calvert also returned from a one-game suspension for his assault on Penguins right wing Tom Kuhnhackl in Game 2 and replaced Scott Hartnell, the one player with the experience of coming back from a 3-0 series deficit, with the 2010 Flyers.
“It was a bad feeling after Game 3, when we lost in overtime after I thought we should have won, but we're a resilient group,” winger Cam Atkinson said. “We showed it all year long. We found a way to play our game.”
The moves worked wonders. Quincey had a secondary assist on Josh Anderson's goal for a 2-0 lead in the first period, as well as four hits and four blocked shots, and made life miserable in small spaces for Evgeni Malkin and open-ice hits on Jake Guentzel.
Nutivaara scored at 4:48 of the second period for a 3-0 lead, and assisted on Boone Jenner's winner in the third.
“I thought they sparked us,” Tortorella said. “Two guys who haven't been playing quite a bit at all here of late stepped in and played well.”
The Penguins simply couldn't match that sense of desperation, even after 36-year-old defenseman Ron Hainsey scored his first career playoff goal to cut it to 3-2 in the second period.
“That's a good team,” Tortorella said. “They can sense the blood in the water, but we got through it.”
This was their kind of night, one that reeked of desperation but was all about the sound and the fury.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or on Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

No comments: