By Michael McCarthy
There were lots of story lines at the Wells Fargo Center last night.
Flyers on a roll.
Scott Hartnall coming back.
Craig Berube avoiding him.
But no one mentioned Nick Foligno, who had two goals and an assist to help the Columbus Blue Jackets snap a nine-game losing streak with a 4-3 win against the Flyers.
The goals gave Foligno 11 in 21 career games against Philly, the most he’s scored against any NHL team.
“Really? Wow. That’s awesome,” Foligno said when told that fact. “I don’t know what the recipe is. … [The Flyers] are a tough team to play against. I always get excited to play against them.”
He wasn’t the only Blue Jackets player to perform well against the Flyers on Friday. Ryan Johansen had a career-best four assists, James Wisniewski scored his first two goals of the season, and goaltender Curtis McElhinney made 24 saves to earn his first win of the season.
Three of the Blue Jackets’ four goals came on the power play; the Flyers entered the game second in the League in home penalty-killing, having allowed one power-play goal in their first eight games at Wells Fargo Center.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “But it’s just one step in the right direction. We did a lot of good things tonight.”
Among them was defending a one-goal lead for the final 18:50 of the third period after the Flyers closed to within 4-3 early in the third.
Rather than sit back, the Blue Jackets pushed the pace, outshooting the Flyers 14-10 in the third.
“I think we realized that in games before we’ve allowed it to slip away,” Foligno said. “We stuck to our guns, hit a couple crossbars. We still took the game to them. Says a lot about the maturity of this group as we’ve gone through a tough time.”
Jake Voracek (photo above) extended his scoring streak to nine games with a goal and an assist, and Claude Giroux and Michael Del Zottoscored goals for the Flyers, whose three-game winning streak came to an end. Goalie Steve Mason allowed four goals on 38 shots.
It was Voracek’s eighth multipoint game in 15 games this season; he had 16 multipoint games in 82 games last season.
The Flyers were playing for the first time since Saturday, but the players refused to say they were rusty.
“There’s no excuse,” Del Zotto said. “Five days off, you’re rested. Just a matter of getting your legs under you. No excuses to how we came out and started. We knew they were going to come out desperate, come out with a lot of intensity. … We weren’t able to match it, and it hurt us.”
The Blue Jackets got the game’s first goal on Wisniewski’s first of the season, a bouncing shot from the point on the power play. It was his first goal since the last time the Blue Jackets were in Philly, on April 3.
“Wasn’t for lack of trying or shooting the puck,” Wisniewski said. “I’ve had a ton of shots and shot attempts, just haven’t been able to find one. That first one was perfect example of a lucky goal. Hit a shaft, skipped off the ice and went in. That was the luckiest goal I’ve ever scored. Happy to get one of those.”
After Giroux’s power-play goal tied the game, Foligno scored late in the first to put the Blue Jackets back in front. Voracek’s goal early in the second tied the game 2-2, but Foligno showed great patience to finish a give-and-go with Johansen to give Columbus back the lead.
The goals gave Foligno a Columbus-best nine goals, including five in the past five games. His 18 points are second on the Blue Jackets to Johansen’s 20.
“I’ve played with Foligno a lot the last three years,” Johansen said. “Me and him seem to have this chemistry that works well together. It’s awesome to see him get off to the start he’s on, and I have a lot of fun playing with him.”
After 15 games Foligno is halfway to the 18 goals he scored in 70 games last season.
“It’s always nice,” Foligno said. “I’m playing with some great players, getting some great opportunities, trying to make the most of it. It’s been fun. Have to continue, use this as a benchmark and try to follow it up with a good win [Saturday].”
Wisniewski’s second goal pushed the Blue Jackets’ lead to 4-2 entering the third period.
Philly made it a one-goal game 1:10 into the third when Del Zotto fired a shot from the left circle past McElhinney’s glove, off the right post and in.
Giroux nearly tied the game with a hard shot from the right side that beat McElhinney but hit the crossbar at 5:15 of the third.
The Flyers pulled Mason with 1:31 left, and had an offensive-zone draw with 36.2 seconds remaining after the Blue Jackets iced the puck. But Johansen beat Giroux on two faceoffs in the Columbus end and also blocked a shot in the final seconds.
“There was some commitment tonight,” Richards said. “Guys were skating, some big blocked shots, some timely saves. Those are the things that you need to get on the right side of games.”
The Flyers will head to Montreal for a game Saturday, and the Blue Jackets head home for a game against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. Columbus hasn’t won consecutive games since back-to-back victories to open the season.
“We’re going to face a tough team [Saturday] in San Jose,” Richards said. “Big, they can skate. We saw them (Oct. 23, a 5-4 Blue Jackets win) out West. We know how those guys can play and what they can do. We’re going to have to be ready. It’s a good feeling now; we’ll enjoy it, get off the plane and start worrying about the Sharks.”