The nightmare continues. The Jackets were seconds away from their first win of the season, but one ugly turnover and a slippery Ottawa blueline scuttled the game for Columbus. They fall to 0-7-1 on the season, and it's looking more and more like the Jackets' season is slipping away.
Read on for the tale of the tape.
The intrigue started before the whistle. According to Jackets PxP man Jeff Rimer, Scott Arniel was on the bench during the pre-game warmup for the first time since he took over the job as head coach. Also, the Jackets shuffled the lines in a big way- Rick Nash was skating with Samuel Pahlsson and Maksim Mayorov, Vinny Prospal was on a line with Ryan Johansen and Derick Brassard, Antoine Vermette had Cody Bass and Alexandre Giroux on his wings, and R.J. Umberger was with Derek Dorsett and Derek MacKenzie.
Once the puck dropped however, the lines were closer to what we would have expected, with a few wrinkles- Nash was with Brass and Prospal, Mayorov, Dorsett and Pahlsson were reunited, Giroux was on a line with Bass and MacKenzie- and the remaining line, which is very interesting- Umberger with Vermette and Johansen.
There was a "feeling-out" period between the two teams for most of the first five minutes of the game. The Jackets' third defensive pairing, which on this night featured rookies David Savard and John Moore playing together, was beaten clean by the Sens' Erik Condra. Condra slid the puck across the front of the net, but Savard slid across and into the post, knocking it off the moorings. He was given a delay of game penalty for intentionally dislodging the net.
It took the Senators a minute and a half to get set up in the Jackets' zone, but when they did Jason Spezza fed a pinching Filip Kuba through the slot, who beat goalie Steve Mason to put the Senators up by one on the powerplay.
1-0 Senators: Kuba (Spezza, Gonchar)
The Jackets came back with some pressure, with Aaron Johnson creating a pair of chances from the back end, but couldn't convert. Johnson has been very consistent in the games he has suited up this season, and is making the most of his increased icetime with injuries and the Wisniewski suspension.
Most of the play was between the bluelines, and to be frank the game seemed to plod along. That was until Rick Nash beat an Ottawa defender along the boards and passed to Prospal. Prospal threw the puck on net, and after Anderson made the save, Johnson continued his surprising offensive outburst by tucking the puck in the net to tie the game.
1-1: Johnson (Prospal, Brassard)
With about five minutes left in the first, the Jackets went on the powerplay. Though they couldn't convert, they did have a handful of chances. As soon as the teams returned to five-on-five play, the Sens went in on a two-on-one, but Mason made a huge save to keep the game tied.
With the in-arena announcer delivering the "one minute remaining" call, Zack Smith fired a shot in-close on Mason, but the big goalie came up big. The Jackets went the other way and had a decent scoring chance themselves, but Anderson held on for the faceoff.
End of the first period, 1-1.
The second period was only a few seconds old when after losing the draw, Vermette carried the puck off ice, dishing it off to Johansen. Johansen then fed a pinching Kris Russell, who ripped the puck past Anderson to put the Jackets ahead by one. Johansen's helper was his first NHL point.
2-1 Jackets: Russell (Johansen, Vermette)
The Jackets continued to press for the next five or so minutes. Each Columbus line was making things happen, and Mason was making the saves he needed to make. The Senators were struggling to connect on most of their passes, and this allowed the Jackets to dictate the play.
The Jackets' best line in the second period was the Umberger-Vermette-Johansen unit. They were making things happen offensively, and Johansen was especially noticeable. Easily his best game as a pro.
An observation: Derek MacKenzie is so tenacious, in all three zones. He's such a great change-of-pace player, the prototypical energy forward.
Midway through the period. Chris Neil laid out two big hits on John Moore on the same shift. This gave the Sens energy, and they had a few minutes of sustained pressure. They kept the Jackets hemmed in their own zone, and Chris Neil, who was double-shifted as a reward for his previous shift with the big hits, won a board battle, and the Sens cycled the puck until Zack Smith was fed the puck for a one-timer to Mason's right, beating the goalie to tie it up.
2-2: Smith (Condra, Neil)
Rather than deflate after the tying goal, the Jackets went on the attack. The Nash line was making things happen, and the Vermette line followed that up with a solid shift themselves. You can almost sense the Jackets were close to scoring a goal
Another observationt: Filip Kuba would look good in a Jackets sweater.
Late in the period the Jackets went on the powerplay. After allowing a shorthanded chance against, they got things straightened out and had a few chances, but couldn't score.
End of the second. 2-2.
With both teams looking for a quick start to the third, Ottawa showed the most effort early, running roughshod in the Columbus end for the first three minutes. The Jackets were lucky to escape the onslaught without a goal against.
Mason made a handful of great saves in the first half of the period. You can see the confidence, and after each big save, the skaters in front of hm showed more jump.
Midway through the third, the Jackets went back to the powerplay. To that point, they had been 0-for-2 on the PP, with no shots. That's right, NO shots. On this man advantage however, the Jackets didn't disappoint. Captain Nash was fed the puck to the left of the slot, and fired a wrister to beat Anderson. Not only was this a powerplay goal, but it also marked the first time this season that the Jackets have scored more than two goals.
3-2 Jackets: Nash (Tyutin, Prospal)
With 8:35 left, Steve Mason made a highlight-reel save to maintain the lead. Condra sped down the wing, and found a wide-open Spezza in front of the net. Spezza one-timed the pass, but Mason slid post-to-post and denied the Senators a tying goal.
APB: Be on the lookout for Umberger, R.J. He hasn't been seen in 52 minutes.
The Sens had some late pressure, but it was the Steve Mason show in the third period. He made big save after big save, and the Jackets fell into what looked like a 1-3-1 to help protect the lead.
With a little over two minutes left (the clock was broken at Scotiabank) the Jackets returned to the powerplay after David Rundblad hooked Rick Nash as the big winger was on a partial breakaway.
Kris Russell gave Jackets fans a small heart attack when he turned the puck over to Alfredsson. He was forced to turn and trip the Sens captain, nullifying the powerplay. Let it be known that Mase also made a huge save on Alfredsson. The Sens pulled Anderson, and with a gaping cage Vermette had the puck on his stick at the Ottawa blueline. Goal right? Nope. Vermy blew a tire and turned the puck over.
The Sens went the other way, and after Mason was forced to make a save, a scrum broke loose and who else- Chris Neil- was sent off. He instigated the scrum, and trashed Grant Clitsome's visor in the process.
With just seconds left in the game, and with the Sens up a man due to having the goalie pulled, Spezza jammed home the puck to tie the game.
3-3: Spezza (Michalek, Karlsson)
With just 4.7 seconds to go, Fedor Tyutin turned the puck over behind his net, and the puck made its way to the point. Sergei Gonchar blasted the puck, and it was tipped by Michalek behind Steve Mason.
4-3 Senators: Michalek (Gonchar, Spezza)
Senators win. Jackets hearts are broken with two goals against in the final minute.
Final Score: 4-3 Senators.
- Steve Mason- this was his best game all season, four goals against is tough, but none were his fault.
- Aaron Johnson- continues to impress.
Ottawa Senators- Their effort in the final minute alone was impressive. Kudos.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Kris Russell- He was a candidate for standard bearer, but his turnover and subsequent penalty absolutely broke the Jackets back.
- Antoine Vermette- He looked slow all game. He had a chance to ice the game with the Ottawa net empty, but tripped over the Sens blueline.
- Umberger- Seriously, where is he?
This was an absolute horror show for the Jackets. The scent of victory was in the air. They had the Sens on their heels. They were on a powerplay to essentially end the game. All it took was one turnover and an inability to pot an easy open net goal, and the Jackets are still winless.
There's nothing left to say.