Blue Jackets put on flashy show in Vegas
LAS VEGAS — They’d won the first two games of a three-game trip, but the Blue Jackets wanted to secure at least one gem to take home Sunday.
They’d already ended a five-game losing streak and put together consecutive wins in Colorado and Arizona, but what they really wanted was a signature performance — one they could look back on the rest of the season.
Their opportunity to bag that was Saturday night at T-mobile Arena, the loud, flashy home of the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Blue Jackets got exactly what they wanted with an impressive 4-3 victory to polish off a 3-0-0 trip.
“It’s huge,” said Cam Atkinson, whose two goals late in the third period keyed the comefrom-behind effort. “The first two games, we found a way to get those points, which is huge. We needed those points, obviously. We knew this game was going to be the hardest out of the bunch, especially in this environment.”
They weren’t wrong, for two main reasons.
One, the Golden Knights are a strong team again, after winning the Western Conference and playing in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in their first year of existence. Two, there is no such thing as a run-of-themill, regular-season game in Las Vegas.
Every game the Golden Knights play becomes a Vegas show, with entertainment of some sort happening all around the arena — inside and out — from start to finish. It’s loud. The bass thumps so hard your temples pulsate, and the Golden Knights seemingly thought of every technological bell and whistle on the market. Cam Atkinson celebrates the second of his two goals during the third period in the Blue Jackets’ 4-3 victory against the Golden Knights in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
It creates a lot of energy that fans and players feed off. And it doesn’t take long to realize how big of a home-ice advantage it can be.
“The whole bench is vibrating,” said Atkinson, who tied it 3-3 with 5:12 left in the third. “It’s a pretty special place to play. I like taking that and using that as motivation to shove it in their faces, but when
they get going it’s hard to maintain just because the crowd gets involved. If you don’t weather the storm, you’re going to be on the wrong side of it.”
There were a couple of storms to weather.
The Golden Knights scored two goals by defensemen in the first period, overcoming an early goal scored by the Jackets’ Josh Anderson to take a 2-1 lead. It could’ve been worse had Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (21 saves) not made two great stops in the waning minutes of the period.
The second period, though, is where the Jackets shined — along with the final five-plus minutes of the third. They seized control by seizing the puck, outshooting Vegas and finding another way to win a game, their third in a row.
Atkinson’s second goal of the game, his 31st of the season, was the difference. Now comes the hard part.
The schedule gets even tougher this week, starting with home games Tuesday against the Washington Capitals and Thursday against the New York Islanders — who lead the Metropolitan Division. The third-place Jackets are seven points back.
“I think it was a good time for us to get back on the road, but at the same time ... we’ve got to figure things out at home now,” Anderson said. “(We need) to really focus and try to play like this in front of our crowd, like we know we can do.”