Looking to continue a four game point streak, the Jackets stepped into a building where success, particularly in regulation, has been rare. Facing a St. Louis team looking for blood, and both teams scrapping to get back into the playoff picture, it was a matchup as much about the hate between these two teams, and the intense atmosphere in the building, as the product on the ice.
I'm running this and I can jump the hurdles
I'm feeling like I'm racing a bunch of little turtles.
Keep a bandanna like the Ninja Turtles
I'm like a turtle when I sip the purple.
And we ball like swoosh
And we ball like swoosh
And we ball like swoosh
Yea we ball like swoosh
Now how you like me now?
From the drop of the puck, the tone was set for a nasty, chippy affair when Brad Winchester gave Derek Dorsett a nasty high stick to the neck and jaw following the opening faceoff. The penalty, of course, went unnoticed, but Dorsett quickly introduced himself to Winchester with his left hook. Doors got a lot of quick punches in, but Winchester dragged things over to the bench and just shuffled a bit until the refs broke things up.
Two minutes later, B. J. Crombeen took a cheap shot at Jared Boll with a high elbow (that once again would go uncalled), but Boll brought his own objections to light, let Crombeen get tied up, then unleashed a furious barrage of right hooks that left Crombeen without a helmet and relieved when the refs separated the pair.
Unfortunately, however, it would be St. Louis that took an early grab at the momentum a few minutes later. A shot from Alex Steen redirected off Eric Brewer's stick in front of the net and then took a bad hop off of Steve Mason's outstretched catching glove, hitting the top of the glove, bouncing over the goalie's back, and into the net.
To make matters worse, Derek Dorsett was whistled for Interference a few seconds later (though the hit, on replay, appeared to simply be the agitator finishing a clean check) and St. Louis would cash in again on the power play - the PK appeared to be stretching the Blues and pushing them out of the zone, but Alex Steen was able to re-enter the zone and fire a bomb past Marc Methot from above the left faceoff circle that Mason was unable to stop.
For a long moment, the camera on the Fox Sports Ohio broadcast focused in on Mathieu Garon.
Was Mason having the kind of night that would see him pulled after two goals?
If Scott Arniel was thinking about it, he apparently made the decision to go with his starter, and instead he challenged the skaters on the bench to man up and get back into the game.
That call would pay massive dividends.
Midway through the first period, Kristian Huselius would take a shot from the far boards that popped off Jaroslav Halak's legs, and R.J. Umberger was able to grab the rebound and chip it to Antoine Vermette, who slipped it past Halak into the open net.
After cutting the lead in half, the Jackets started to build momentum, nearly converting twice on a power play a few minutes later with Jay McClement in the box for delay of game, but the Blues were able to hold on.
The next spark came when Marc Methot delivered a clean hit to T.J. Oshie at the blue line towards the end of the first period (in fact, from where I was sitting, Methot appeared to take a remarkable amount of care - he slowed himself down, made sure that his elbow only made contact with Oshie's right arm). Apparently concerned about any possible threat to the recently returned winger, Tyson Strachan immediately attacked Methot in what looked like a textbook case for the Instigator penalty to me, but the additional penalty wasn't called. The fight itself wasn't much to write home about - Methot wanted no part of it, and Strachan's punches looked like a jerky, erratic puppet with twisted strings.
With the Jackets taking a 10-9 lead in shots and starting to clearly build momentum, the second period could have gone either way, but apparently the Jackets went into the locker room and decided that anything less than a win was unacceptable.
Dominating both the physical play and the shot clock in the second period, the Jackets earned an early power play and hammered away, but just missed a couple of chances to tie the game, including Tyutin whiffing on what looked like a guaranteed score.
However, it would be an unexpected spark that brought the Jackets even, with Matt Calvert breaking up a St. Louis up-ice rush, freeing the puck up for Derek MacKenzie, who fed Jared Boll on a breakaway. With nothing between the goal except open ice and Halak, Boll deked his way in before tucking the puck past Halak's leg pad, putting himself on Gordie Howe Hat Trick watch.
The Jackets continued to get chances, eventually dominating the period to the tune of 14-5 (St. Louis would not get a shot in the period until the last 8 minutes of play), but not quite able to take over the scoreboard. The only sour note would be the loss of Rusty Klesla, who took a bad fall into the boards and left the game, but coach Arniel said that the big d-man was "OK" in his post game comments, and expected him to be back in the lineup soon.
This would be corrected early in the third period, when Sammy Pahlsson fed Jan Hejda at the blue line, and the big Czech, returning to the lineup after being scratched on Wednesday, unloaded a huge blast from the point which Andrew Murray would redirect past Halak for the 3-2 lead.
Despite some additional penalty trouble (including a lengthy 4-on-4 exchange with David Backes and Grant Clitsome in the penalty boxes), neither side would cash in with the extra skater until Ian Cole found himself in the box for another hooking penalty, and the Jackets' power play went to work with just over four minutes to go in the game.
In another perfect connection between the top line, Jake Voracek and Derick Brassard harried the Blues' PK for the puck, with Voracek going down to the goal line below the left faceoff dot, passing up to Brassard in the high slot, and Brassard faking a shot before sending a quick pass to Nash, who fired the one-timer before Halak could re-adjust, scoring from just above the right dot for a 4-2 lead.
The Blues would pull Halak with just over two minutes to go, looking to get something past Mason, but Derick Brassard was able to break up an entry attempt and pass the puck to Fedor Tyutin, who golfed it into the empty net from his own blue line for the 5-2 lead.
It was all over but the shouting, but the Blues weren't about to let the game end without a chance to send more messages. Erik Johnson and Ryan Reaves started a scrum with Jan Hejda and Marc Methot with about 30 seconds left, nearly leading to a good old fashioned line brawl, but the Jackets kept their heads up high and skated away with the win and a nice bit of swagger in their skates.
How you like me now?
Final Score: Jackets 5 - Blues 2
- Jared Boll - Yes, really, Jared Boll. A big fight, dominant physical play, and a crucial goal in the comeback effort, all in 6:30 of ice time (and about 10 penalty minutes). You don't expect hearing that Jared Boll was the critical guy on the ice, but it was fantastic to see.
- Jan Hejda - After his first benching ever as a Blue Jacket, Jan Hejda came back in a big way. Not only did he deliver some big hits (and came back as a +3, in addition to his assist on the GWG), he was a lot more mobile than I can remember, getting the puck up ice and pinching in several times to help with scoring chances. If he can keep up this level of play, it could be a major boost to this team.
- Jake Voracek / Derick Brassard - Rick Nash had the goal that put the lid on St. Louis' coffin, but Brass and Jake had assists on that goal AND the Tyutin EN goal that nailed that lid shut.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Steve Mason - I'm torn here. On the one hand, he showed great resilience through the rest of this game, and paid off Arniel's decision to leave him in net. On the other, while the first goal wasn't one he could do much with, the second goal was a TERRIBLE one to let in. I'm still pleased at how he rebounded, but there's clearly work to do.
- Refs - Much as I love the utter hate-fest that Columbus / St. Louis games are turning into, the Refs really let this game get out of hand early.
- O Ye of Little Faith - I will not call out the specific person, but after the Blues took a 2-0 lead, I saw a Jackets' fan opine on Twitter: "That's it. The season is over." I sure hope you stayed up to watch the rest of the game. Meanwhile, I have a great recipe for crow around here somewhere...
The Jackets will be back in action at home against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday at 7pm, their final game before the All Star break. It almost couldn't come at a worse time - the boys are rolling, and I'd much rather they get a chance to keep up their momentum rather than take a few days off, but it is what it is.
Hey, if you're not doing anything Tuesday night, why not get out to the game and cheer the boys on after such a great effort over the past two weeks?