"All they need is just one win."
It's been a mantra, repeated for the last week as the Jackets slipped into a 5 game losing skid.
It didn't come easy, and it didn't come pretty, but tonight, the Jackets did just that.
As if releasing the bottled up frustrations of the last week, the Jackets came out hitting hard and often, physically dominating the Stars for much of the first period, though they were unable to convert several early chances.
The break for the Jackets, though, came a little under six minutes into the game - Rick Nash got the puck away from Tom Wandell, then put a nice pass through the neutral zone to Kris Russell. Kris was joined by Jakub Voracek on the rush, and made a nice move to get him the puck, then Jake sent the puck back to Russell just past the right faceoff dot, and Little Shake backhanded it top shelf past Kari Lehtonen for the 1-0 lead.
Dallas would have two power play opportunities to tie the game, and the Jackets would have their own chance to extend the lead, but both would go unsatisfied, with the Jackets taking the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
At the break, the Jackets had outshot the Stars 7-5, and would again limit them to five shots in the second, but Dallas took much more control of their game in the middle frame, battling for pucks, preventing clearing attempts, and finally tying the game off a bad turnover by Nash at the blue line that was snatched by James Neal and fed to Brad Richards, who fired on Garon at point blank range.
The Jackets had an early power play in the third period, and nearly took the lead on a bouncing puck that R. J. Umberger was unable to get his stick on in front of a wide open net, and the Stars would respond after the PK, taking advantage of another turnover, this one by Jared Boll in the neutral zone. Trevor Daley would get the puck down below the goal line on Garon's glove side, and with a screen set in front of the goaltender, fired a quick pass to Steve Ott, who snapped the puck past Garon. from the slot.
For the next ten minutes, it was a story of missed chances, including a scramble in front of Lehtonen with Jake Voracek firing the puck in on the net, and Rick Nash just missing a rebound for the tap-in, but the Stars seemed ready to take the win in regulation with Karlis Skrastins was called for a holding penalty on Umberger with less than two minutes to go.
For the first minute of the power play, Dallas was able to get the puck out of trouble, but with Mathieu Garon pulled for an extra attacker, the power play finally began to cycle, and Nash was fed a beautiful feed by Stralman from the point, hung on for what seemed like an eternity looking for the backdoor pass, and found a hole on Lehtonen's glove side with just 43 seconds left in regulation to tie the game.
In overtime, the Jackets seemed energized and came out flying, including another excellent attempt by Nash that nearly ended the game in OT, but Lehtonen was able to stop all four Jackets shots (the only shots registered in OT, in fact), and we went to a shootout.
Scott Arniel elected to have the Jackets shoot first, and Nash would be the first skater up, moving in on the left side and wristing the puck past Lehtonen's stick for a goal.
James Neal would be up next for the Stars, and tried to go 5-hole, but Garon denied it with a pad save.
Next would be Nikita Filatov, who spent much of the third period and OT on the bench, but his 5-hole attempt was likewise shut down when Lehtonen slammed his pads together on the shot.
Brad Richards would come in for the Stars, and was able to deke Garon to move right before suddenly correcting back to the left and shooting into a wide open net to tie the shootout at 1.
That put a lot of pressure on an unexpected shooter for the Jackets...Kyle Wilson.
The Colgate product didn't seem to worry about it, though, as he came in and beat Lehtonen to the stick side as well, in a move that looked remarkably Nash-esque.
For the final shooter, Dallas sent Jamie Benn over the boards, and he attempted a very Frank Herbert "The slow blade penetrates the shield" kind of move, barely skating forward as he inched towards the goal, then finally trying to go up top after Garon took away the bottom of the net, but the Jackets' netminder was able to get his leg up enough to deflect the puck downwards and trapped it on the ice with his glove, winning the game for the Jackets in the shootout.
Final Score: Jackets 3 - Stars 2 (SO)
- Rick Nash - He made some mental mistakes, but he had a good pass to help out on the first goal, he made up for a number of sins with that power play goal to tie the game late, and his shootout move was like butter.
- Derek Dorsett - He didn't score, and he didn't even get a chance to make James Neal's head bleed, JR style, but he drew a penalty (that was one stride away from being a penalty shot), created offense, and did a great job pursuing the puck, particularly with the team down a goal in the third. He clearly wanted a win tonight above all else, and he put a strong effort in.
- Mathieu Garon - The two goals he allowed in regulation weren't great, but when the team needed a couple of big saves late in the third period, he made them, and his stop on Neal in the SO was huge, since it took pressure off the remaining shooters after Nash had scored.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Second Period - Wish I knew what happened there, but despite playing some good defense, the Jackets just couldn't get anything moving up the ice, and Dallas was finally able to capitalize.
- Transition Game - Way too many passes were "to whom it may concern" tonight - the Jackets were lucky to only get burned twice.
- Officiating - OK, yes, we got a very good call late that lead to the tying goal, but both teams got away with some pretty chippy play, and I still can't believe there was no penalty after Nash was dragged down from behind in OT by Stephane Robidas.
All things considered, though, a win is still a win, and the Jackets needed those points. The team improves to 15-10-1, good for 6th place in the West and 3rd in the Central, one point behind Chicago and Phoenix.
The Jackets will be back in action on the road on Thursday, when they face St. Louis at the Scottrade Center. I'm sure that the Blues haven't forgotten their last meeting...
I can't promise it'll be good, but at least it's likely to be interesting.