SUN Hockey Pool

Hitch a ride!

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 12:31 PM ET

If there was ever an excuse for a team to search out a soft spot on the canvas and lay down, last night was it, and Columbus was the team.

The Blue Jackets had one win in their previous 11 games, they were missing one of their best forwards, they were starting their backup goalie and they had been softened up the night before in Calgary.

It had slaughter written all over it.

Unfortunately for Edmonton, the lambs laughed last.

"Words can't explain how huge this win was for us tonight," said Jackets centre Dan Fritsche, who had an empty net goal and two assists as the last place team in the NHL whupped the Oilers 4-0. "The guys really came together and played a solid game when we really needed it."

It didn't seem to matter that Nikolai Zherdev (upper body) was out and reliever Fredrik Norrena, making his eighth career start, was in. The Jackets got all the offence they needed and the keeper netted the first shutout of his NHL career.

Ex-Oilers Anson Carter, with a goal and an assist, and Jason Chimera, one assist, plus-2, helped lead the way.

"We've been playing well for the last four or five games, we just haven't been rewarded,'' said Chimera. "I think it's all coming together. We put a full 60 together tonight and didn't give them much.''

Head coach Ken Hitchcock came on board after the Jackets had lost their seventh game in a row. After dropping his first game against the Flyers, he's 2-2, with both of the losses being one-goal jobs.

"There is a definite difference under Hitch,'' said Carter. "We're working smart. With Hitch, his main focus is attention to detail and little things away from the puck. Tonight we had guys around the puck all night long. We were able to get it deep and frustrate them a little bit.''

Hitchcock was billed as saviour of the franchise, but did they really expect to see results this quickly?

"Yes, absolutely,'' said Carter. "He's a tremendous teacher. We had a lot of good building blocks in place. Under (Gerard Gallant) he instilled a solid work ethic in our hockey club. Now Hitch came and he's taken it to another level, bringing in a little more structure, playing smarter away from the puck.

"And I think guys are really buying into what Hitch is saying. And if you don't, you're not going to play.''

GROIN CONCERN: Rick Nash was walking gingerly, and still steaming, after Dwayne Roloson, tired of Nash infringing on his crease, speared him in the groin midway through the second period.

"It's pretty sore,'' said Nash. "It's a pretty dirty move to hit someone there, especially when they're not looking.

"I told him it's pretty embarrassing to do that to another guy, especially when I didn't do anything to him. It was a dirty move.''

Columbus scored on the ensuing power play, made it 3-0 less than two minutes after that, and won in a walk, so Nash gets the last laugh.

"Nice,'' he said.

NICE PLACE TO VISIT: Carter hasn't scored many this year, but it felt nice to score one against his old team last night. His fourth of the season gave Columbus a 3-0 lead in the second period.

"It feels good, it always feels good coming into a Canadian city, where the fans are really passionate about their team,'' he said.

"Whether you're cheered or booed, it doesn't really matter.

"You always know it's going to be a great hockey environment and a great atmosphere.''


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