Game 9 Recap: Rise Above

We're gonna rise above
Try and stop what we do
Rise above

Tonight, the Jackets could have easily fallen to 0-8-1 against the division leading Red Wings, particularly with the Wings fresh off a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Capitals and looking to reclaim their swagger at Columbus' expense.

Instead, the Jackets took the return of James Wisniewski as the catalyst that Scott Howson and Scott Arniel were clearly hoping for, pushing the Wings back right from the opening faceoff before the starting lineup of R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette, and Ryan Johansen tore their way through the Wings' defense and set up a bang bang play with Vermette taking a shot on Ty Conklin, creating a great rebound for Umberger that he was able to pound home through Conklin's five hole to break his personal slump at just 29 seconds into the game.

Despite the early jump, the Wings did not retreat, and a pair of plays would set the table for some serious tsuris among the crowd in Nationwide, first with Tomas Holmstrom crashing into the netminder just past the three minute mark during a Wings PP, leaving Steve Mason testing a sore shoulder, and then Justin Abdelkader winning a board battle against Kris Russell, forcing Aaron Johnson to overskate the puck, and putting a pass back to Darren Helm, who managed to stuff the puck between Mason's leg and the post for the tying goal.

With Mason leaving for the locker room in obvious pain, Allen York would be asked to stand in. Though York ended up spending only 2:33 in net (and the team making it easier by pushing the puck hard into the Detroit end), Mason would return just in time for the Jackets to head to a power play. 

Grant Clitsome would unload a bomb from the point that put the puck on the stick of Ryan Johansen behind the net, and the 2010 first rounder would flip the puck into the back of Ty Conklin, banking it into the net for his first NHL goal. (The goal also marked the first regular season game with a two goal period for the Jackets since March 7th of last year.)

After 20 minutes, the Jackets had a dominant first period, with several other "near miss" chances, but another 40 minutes looming in front of them. 

We are tired of your abuse
Try to stop us it's no use

Despite Detroit turning up the pressure in the second period (and outshooting the Jackets 15-12), the Jackets would seem to capture the better opportunities, including odd man rushes from Derek Dorsett, R.J. Umberger, and Antoine Vermette that just failed to drop home before the Jackets' fourth line used hard work to help create the insurance goal. Grant Clitsome fired another shot hard and high before Cody Bass was able to corral the puck and push his way through Ian White to set up John Moore, who unloaded a bullet that struck the glove of Drew Miller and wobbled in past Conklin for the 3-1 lead, providing him with his first NHL goal.

Not only would this put the Jackets past the two goal barrier, but would be the first time two Jackets' rookies had ever scored their first NHL goals in the same game.

With that bit of luck behind them, the Jackets would gird their loins for the final 20 minutes of play, and it would be a surprising lack of cohesion for the Wings triggering a series of Jackets power plays to eat up a major chunk of the period, and though the Jackets did not convert it was certainly not for lack of trying - or for lack of James Wisniewski, who was a major player in all situations in his return to the ice.

Finally, in the final two minutes Derek Dorsett would get tied up with Thomas Holmstrom and made the mistake of retaliating to a bit of a facewash with a flagrant hold that the referees simply could not let go. Sent to the box, the Wings would take their timeout to set up a 6 on 4 attack, pulling Conklin for the extra attacker. The Wings pressured, but the Jackets PK, stellar all evening, bent, but would not break, finally breaking the puck out with R.J. Umberger and Derek MacKenzie, and D-Mac would slide up the boards and through a check before sailing the puck down the ice and into the empty net to seal their first win of the season.

We are born with a chance
Rise above
We're gonna rise above
I am gonna have my chance
Rise above
We're gonna rise above

Final Score: Jackets 4 - Red Wings 1 

Standard Bearers:
  • Steve Mason - I'll freely admit that I have said unkind things about Mason this season - particularly this past weekend - but he was simply incredible tonight. Responding with poise and ferocity, he controlled his rebounds, held onto pucks, snapped up chances, and was unafraid to lay himself out in order to take away opportunities - all after being injured and returning to the game!
  • James Wisniewski - Though the Wiz did not contribute to the scoresheet, his presence was felt from beginning to end, playing nearly 28 minutes, including heavy PP and PK time, throwing hits, clearing out the crease in front of his netminder, and really setting an attitude for the whole squad tonight. Tonight was a 60 minute effort, and it feels like he helped set the tone for the entire effort.
  • Grant Clitsome - Three assists for the Clitter in 16:44 of ice time. Not bad at all. 
  • Ryan Johansen / John Moore - Welcome to the NHL, guys. Great efforts leading to some great personal moments. Moore had some solid hits and never really looked out of place tonight, while Johansen really seems to have clicked on the wing with Vermette and Umberger, and easily could have had another goal and assist tonight if a bounce or two had gone his way.
  • Special Teams - Not to throw the praise around, but with the PP converting for the 5th game in a row AND the PK keeping a clean sheet, it was a fantastic performance in that department as well.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
  • Derek Dorsett - I think that, on the whole, Dorse had a great game, but that penalty in the final two minutes was a case of really poor timing, particularly after he was able to keep his temper earlier and draw a couple of calls.
  • Top Line - Held off the score sheet entirely for the first time this season, a reflection of how the Wings focused on them all night - and in their defense, but for some odd bounces they, too, might have scored.
  • Third Period - The boys won, but R.J. Umberger mentioned in his postgame comments that he felt the team backed off a bit in the third, and I have to agree - especially with Detroit handing them several chances to extend the lead on the man advantage.
Still, a win is a win, and this was really the first complete 60 minute effort we'd seen all season. Perhaps, just perhaps, with Wiz back in the fold and should Jeff Carter return in the near future, we'll be seeing more and more of these kind of games. It was, all things considered, a pretty small victory in the scheme of things, but just as worth considering that those small victories create others.

The jackets will practice tomorrow at the Ice Haus before heading to New York to take on the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.
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