Sorry, sorry. I had to use the pun at least once.
Yesterday, despite a hard fought game, the Jackets fell, 3-2, to the San Jose Sharks.
Today, they faced the same opponent, on the same ice, with almost identical lineups.
San Jose would now have last change as the "home team."
Nothing else changed.
Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting a different result.
But sometimes? Crazy works.
Once again, the Jackets found themselves in penalty trouble - this time it started within the first ten seconds of the game, as Antoine Vermette found himself in the box for a hooking call almost as soon as the first face-off ended. The Jacket PK started strong, but in the dying seconds of the penalty, both Mike Commodore and R. J. Umberger would whiff on clearing attempts, and Devin Setoguchi put San Jose up 1-0 with 3 seconds to go in the penalty.
However, the Jackets came right back on San Jose, pushing the Sharks back into their zone with aggressive forecheck as the top line of Nash, Vermette, and Huselius pressed into the zone, Rick Nash threw a shot at the net from the bottom of the ice, and the puck slid through Antero Niitymaki's leg and the post at the corner of the net, tying the game.
The Jackets continued to batter at the San Jose net, getting good pressure down low and drawing another penalty from Jamie McGinn late in the period, but went to the locker room tied 1-1, but leading in both shots and faceoff wins.
The second period, however, was dominated by a parade to the box. Some were fairly....questionable calls, but a few were just cases of stupid (for example, Ethan Moreau whacking at a Shark right in front of a referee and heading to the box as a result), but the PK (and most importantly Steve Mason) were solid...but another scary moment in this game would come after the team killed another penalty when Patrick Marleau wound up for a slap shot, fired, and struck Steve Mason in his throat protector with enough force that the throat shield snapped and flew off his mask.
Mason was clearly shaken up on the play (who wouldn't be?), but after a moment to rest and clean himself up, he pulled out his backup mask (the 10th anniversary mask created by Cathy Lord), and went right back to war.
Though San Jose pulled ahead on shots and faceoff wins (not surprisingly), the team continued to hold up in the third period, and finally got a break when Devin Setoguchi went to the box for a hook at just under five minutes into the period.
The Jacket Power Play didn't need much time. Kristian Huselius sent the puck to Anton Stralman at the top of the zone, who then passed to Filatov at the dot. Filatov faked the shot and passed to Juice, and it was almost a mirror image of the goal he scored yesterday, firing from just above the faceoff dot to give the Jackets their first lead of the regular season.
Unfortunately, there were still 15 minutes of hockey left to play.
Mike Commodore would go to the box for what, frankly, was not a penalty (Commodore was called for a hook, but he was trying to battle for the puck along the boards), and once again the PK would hold...until just a few seconds left in the penalty. Mason went down after making a save, Fedor Tyutin had a chance to get the puck away from Joe Thornton but went down to block the shot instead, and Jumbo Joe roofed the puck over both defenseman and goalie to tie the game once again.
The Sharks could smell the blood in the water, and started to hammer away. The Jackets had a few chances, including a great rush from Russell, but couldn't get much going and simply had to try to hold on, particularly after Rusty Klesla took a horribly stupid boarding penalty with just under 2 minutes left in the third period, a late hit on Thorton after the Shark Captain had knocked Sammy Pahlsson around.
Still the PK knew they'd be blamed for the team losing this game in the dying minutes, and their resolve was incredible. Moreau, Umberger, and Pahlsson were constantly pushing the puck out of the zone and clearing it out of trouble, unwilling to lose.
The game would go to OT, and though the team had secured their first point of the season, one was clearly not enough.
It was exactly what Scott Arniel wanted from his defense. Sammy Pahlsson got the puck away from Dany Heatley at the boards in the neutral zone, and chipped the puck to a waiting Fedor Tyutin.
Toots zipped up the ice, then made a nice drop pass to Ethan Moreau as he came in behind him in the zone, and Moreau fired a laser from just behind the left faceoff dot, burning it over Nitty's shoulder and sealing the win.
I'm not sure which was the more heartwarming moment afterwards - the way the entire team leapt off the bench or raced up the ice to mob Moreau in celebration, or a fist-pumping Scott Arniel getting double bear-hugged by Brad Berry and Bob Boughner as all three men recorded their first NHL coaching victories.
Even some of the biggest homers I know in Jacket-land said that taking a split with San Jose would be a great result, and that's exactly what they did.
If they hadn't been in so much penalty trouble, this game would likely have ended a Jacket win in regulation, but I'm OK with needing an extra two minutes to beat one of the best teams in the conference.
If you're not excited yet for this team, I don't know what to tell you. See a doctor or consider looking for a new team to root for, because I can't understand how you'd have watched this game without feeling some flutter of enthusiasm and still call yourself a fan.
Ethan Moreau - How can we not recognize this? Another game where Edmonton's Trash became Columbus' Treasure. He hit, he killed penalties, he munched minutes, and he brought home the bacon.
Sammy Pahlsson - In addition to setting up said game winner, Pahlsson had some huge hits and played out of his mind on the PK tonight. (He was not credited with an assist on the GWG, but frankly, if he hadn't forced that turnover, Dany Heatley was coming into the zone with a full head of steam, and I doubt that would have ended well.)
Steve Mason - Both of the goals Mason let in were on the power play. It's hard to blame him for either, especially when there were clear defensive breakdowns on each penalty kill attempts. He faced 35 shots, 18 of which came AFTER he had his bell rung. Mase slammed the door when they needed him to, and made some show-stopping saves, including a "LOOKIE HERE!" glove save right after his mask was replaced. If Mase plays like this on North American ice? Look out, NHL.
Bottom of the Barrel:
The Columbus Blue Jackets - Guys, what the hell is the deal with all these penalties? Way too many stupid penalties, way too many chances for San Jose to take this game away from you.
Jake Voracek - I'm not complaining about the kid line lacking in ice time - as was rightly pointed out by Arniel in his post-game yesterday, he doesn't want them killing penalties, and when you take lots of penalties (AGAIN!), the kids won't be out there. But Jake really didn't seem to be able to connect with anything today, despite getting several chances, including a 2 on 1 with Brass.
You can check out the opposition's take on this game over at Fear The Fin.
Hopefully the penalties will be addressed as the team re-adjusts following the flight back from Sweden, and we'll start seeing the team take over games.
The Jackets will fly back from Sweden tomorrow, and have the week off until Friday, the 15th, when they'll hold their real home opener - OUR home opener -against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks at Nationwide Arena. The puck drops at 7pm.
Do me a favor. If you're not making plans for Friday Night? Go.
Buy tickets. Hang out for some Green Seats. Ask a friend if they want to go. Mention it at the water cooler at work this week.
Let's show our boys a proper "Welcome Home" by selling out Nationwide Arena, and cheer them on to a win!