OTTAWA – Matt Duchene was appreciative of how short the walk was to join his new team Friday afternoon.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 saves as the Blue Jackets blanked the Senators 3-0 in the nation’s capital Friday night, just hours after Duchene was dealt to Columbus in a trade with Ottawa.
Duchene was held pointless in his Blue Jackets debut, but found it fitting to be playing his first game with his new club at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre.
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“I enjoyed myself out there. It was kind of a good way to end my time as a Sen and I probably felt more comfortable because I was in this building (rather) than had we gone somewhere else,” said Duchene.
“It was a big win for us and (Craig Anderson) played really well over there and kept them in it for a long time.”
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Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand scored for the Blue Jackets (34-23-3), who halted a two-game losing skid to take over third in the Metropolitan Division.
Duchene received an ovation from the crowd when he was introduced in the starting line-up. He was then mildly booed when he touched the puck during his second shift of the game, and again applauded during a short video tribute.
Duchene says he’s feeling good about joining a team with a realistic shot at the playoffs after playing for a franchise with its focus on a rebuild rather than winning.
“That’s what I’m looking for and that’s what gets me up every morning for sure. I’ve been fortunate to be on a lot of good international teams and win some big tournaments, but I’ve never had a chance to play in the playoffs consistently,” said Duchene.
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Atkinson gave the Jackets some breathing room as he scored on a short-handed breakaway at 6:45 of the third period to take a 2-0 lead. Bjorkstrand put the game out of reach at 17:14 Craig Anderson made 37 saves in the Ottawa (22-34-5) goal. It was the second-straight shutout loss for the Senators and third overall.
The Senators have now gone 125 minutes and 17 seconds without a goal. They scored seven in an 8-7 loss to Chicago last Monday, which, coincidentally, was the last game they had Duchene, Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel in their lineup. The trio has scored 77 of the Senators’ 186 goals this season.
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Senators coach Guy Boucher knows it’s not going to get any easier going forward.
“It just shows you how hard it is to produce in the NHL. You’ve got your high-end core players and they produce but they also make the other guys produce. If you take out those high-end guys now the complimentary players have to become the go-to guys,” Boucher said.
“You’ve got guys who eventually become that, but for now it’s hard. There’s a lot of work ahead.”
Defenceman Cody Ceci, who has been rumoured to be on the move as well before Monday’s trade deadline, agrees. “Without those guys in the lineup it’s tough,” said Ceci, referring to the Duchene trade and Stone and Dzingel being healthy scratches as they await a possible trade of their own.
“It’s a little weird the day of the game and then playing against him tonight and it’s a tough time of year.”
The Blue Jackets had the only goal through 40 minutes of the game but the main reason for that was the play of Craig Anderson, who kept a tight game from turning into a blowout.
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The Blue Jackets had the game’s first four power plays and directed seven shots at Craig Anderson, who stopped them all.
Columbus did get on the board at 14:43 of the first period when Josh Anderson put a one-timer from the face-off circle behind Craig Anderson following a pass from the corner by Pierre-Luc Dubois.
The second period was scoreless as Craig Anderson turned aside all 17 Columbus shots, including a short-handed breakaway by Boone Jenner.