It was a homecoming of sorts for Ryan Kesler, and he made the most of it.
The former Ohio State standout scored two goals, including an empty-netter, propelling the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-1 victory over the Blue Jackets on a night they would like to forget. Backup goaltender Curtis Sanford, making his first start of the season, stopped 35 shots in the victory.
The Jackets (3-3-1), coming off an impressive 3-0 win in Buffalo on Friday, never seemed to establish their territory against a Vancouver team that has yet to lose away from home ice.
The sense of urgency displayed against the Sabres didn't appear until the second period, when Columbus did not allow a shot on goal. It was the second time in franchise history the Jackets accomplished the "feat," dating back to December 27, 2003 against Dallas.
Manny Malhotra hit the crossbar with a wrist shot just ten seconds into the game, and it seemed to be an omen for the rest of the night.
Vancouver (4-4-0) jumped to an early 2-0 lead on goals from Kesler and Kevin Bieksa, and withstood a second period barrage during which the Blue Jackets had a man-power advantage six times.
Rick Nash scored his fifth goal of the season at 2:38 of the second period on a two-man advantage, but aside from that, the Jackets' power play was powerless.
"The power play definitely lost it for us tonight," Nash said. "We weren't getting pucks to the net. I think five-on-five we were all over them. If we get a couple power play goals, the game’s on us.”
Head coach Ken Hitchcock praised the team's effort in the second period, but was unhappy with the power play's inability to convert on numerous opportunities, including a four minute man-advantage.
“I don’t think we were very good on the power play at all," Hitchcock said. "We were too busy trying to make plays rather than create traffic opportunities and shots. We spent time in the zone but we didn’t penetrate.
"When it’s 26-6 after two periods (shots on goal) and you're down 2-1, it’s pretty obvious. Our work and our determination gave us the opportunity to go on the power play a lot today and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
Though he wouldn't name specific players, Hitchcock has to be displeased with the efforts of Sergei Fedorov and David Vyborny. Neither has been a factor offensively, and have been nearly invisible thus far in the season. At one point during the third period, Hitchcock employed Jared Boll, Manny Malhotra and Jason Chimera as the second power play unit.
Pascal Leclaire finally allowed a goal on home ice, but the first goal was one he would like to have back.
"That’s a save I have to make, especially when we play tight games," Leclaire said. "These are low-scoring games and it doesn’t take much. You just make a couple mistakes and that’s what makes the difference for us being only one goal down- pulling the goalie and we have a chance to go to overtime."
Vancouver captain Markus Naslund scored the back-breaking goal at 8:51 of the third period, a tremendous individual effort as he held the puck for moments on end, finally firing the puck on Leclaire's stick side as the goaltender was down.
Vyborny assisted on Nash's goal, registering his first point since opening night.
RANDOM NOTES....Defenseman Duvie Westcott was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. Jody Shelley was the other scratch. The Blue Jackets' troubling attendance trend continued, with only 12,667 in the house. Left winger Fredrik Modin is still nursing a groin injury, and could be in the lineup by Thursday. Columbus has scored three goals in its last 29 power play opportunities (10.3%).