The lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, infused with a rare jolt of confidence, head to Vancouver to face the Canucks on Friday night.
The Blue Jackets, who sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, are coming off a rare win - a 3-2 overtime victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday. They eraseda 2-1 deficit midway through the third period to establish a three-game points streak - their second-longest of the season.
They are 2-0-1 in their past three games, and earning a point on Friday would match their longest point streak.
Columbus rookie Kent Johnson, the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft, was walking on air after he scored the game winner and added an assist in a victory that snapped Edmonton's six-game winning streak.
"It's one of the best feelings to get an OT winner; that was a huge win for us," Johnson said. "I think we've been pretty good in OT all year, but I think we're getting more comfortable in these tight games."
The Blue Jackets kicked off a four-game road trip with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames, another game in which they erased a third-period deficit. It may be a small run, but the last three games have been an enjoyable time for a club that is 5-15-1 since early December.
"We're not there yet," coach Brad Larsen said. "The good thing is you're in two tough environments here the last couple games and (we) didn't take a step back at all."
The win over Edmonton did cost the Blue Jackets in that forward Gustav Nyquist left the game late in the first period due to an upper-body injury. There was no word on Thursday regarding his status on the trip, with the Blue Jackets playing in Seattle on Saturday.
Vancouver is above the Blue Jackets in the standings, but it has been a rough road for the Canucks. A 6-1 thumping at the hands of the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday is the latest defeat for a team that has one win in five games amid a 3-11-0 swoon that includes the club firing head coach Bruce Boudreau and replacing him with Rick Tocchet.
The Canucks claimed a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Tocchet's first game behind the bench on Tuesday, but against the Kraken looked just like the struggling squad seen all season.
"I thought the anxiety caught up with some of the guys, with the emotion of last week, but that was bad. That was bad," Tocchet said. "Soft. You hate to call your team soft, but it was soft. We didn't participate in the wall battles, we didn't get a rim out. We knew what they were going to do. ... Old habits came back."
The Canucks enjoyed a day off on Thursday but still made news. Forward Andrei Kuzmenko, who turns 27 next week, re-signed with the club on a two-year contract at $5.5 million per season. Kuzmenko signed as a free agent after he starred in Russia for years, and in his first NHL season has accumulated 21 goals and 22 assists in 47 games.
"He has been an excellent fit for our forward group this season, transitioning very well to the North American style of play," Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said in a statement. "His passion and enthusiasm for the game has made a positive impact in the dressing room among his teammates and we are excited to watch him continue his career."
--Field Level Media