On a night where the Jackets were facing a tired Minnesota team, they dictated play throughout but after two quick goals-against in the second period, and a weak defensive effort by Jeff Carter on the eventual game-winner, the Jackets racked up another loss.
Here's how it broke down:
The first shift of the game saw the second of line Prospal-Letestu-Johansen set the tone early with a couple of hits, and a shot on net which forced Minnesota goaltender Nicklas Backstrom to hug the post and hang on. The Pahlsson line followed up, and went right back on the offensive, again forcing Backstrom to freeze the puck.
Just over two minutes into the game, Brad Staubitz went off for boarding after a hit from behind on John Moore. Jared Boll was on the ice and immediatly stood up for Moore, challenging Staubitz and chirping him all the way to the box. I'm a big fan of the physical presence that Boll brings, and sticking up for teammates is one of his major responsibilities, and he does it well. The Jackets had a great chance when after Grant Clitsome one-timed the puck on net, Vinny Prospal jammed the puck on net, forcing Backstrom to make a desperation save. Seconds later, Clitsome pinched in, and wired a shot on an empty cage. Backstrom dove over and made a huge paddle save. The Jackets failed to convert, but they did manage four shots on net.
The next shift after the powerplay concluded saw Boll mixing it up with every Wild player on the ice. He was doing an excellent job of getting under the Minnesota players' skin. This action did lead to coincidental minors however, with Boll, Calvert, Piere-marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck all receiving ten-minute misconducts. The referees were clearly sending a message to both teams that he wanted a clean game played.
Shortly after, Sammy Pahlsson went off with a penalty of his own. It didn't faze the Jackets whatsoever, as Antoine Vermette picked the puck up at the Minnesota blueline following a Wild turnover, wristed a shot on net, and backhanded the rebound past Backstrom for his first goal of the season.
1-0 Jackets- Vermette (Unassisted)
The Jackets followed the goal up with two consecutive high-pressure shifts, with the Nash line moving the puck very well in the offensive zone, and the Letestu line having their way in Minnesota's end. On the following shift, Derek Dorsett had a huge open hit on Marek Zidlicky, leading to him dropping the gloves with Warren Peters. Dorsett won the fight easily, dropping heavy ones on Peters' head. Peters was left with a cut above his eye as a reminder. Clayton Stoner picked up a cross-checking penalty on the play.
With seconds remaining in the powerplay, the two new guys hooked up for a goal. Nikita Nikitin threw a beauty pass cross-ice to Letestu, who potted the goal for a two-goal lead.
2-0 Jackets- Letestu (Nikitin, Clitsome)
The Jackets continued to have their way with the Wild for the next few minutes of play. Every player was contributing, whether it was with chances offensively, winning battles for loose pucks, or finishing checks.
One word to describe the play of Nikitin in this period- steady. He reminds me so much of when Rusty Klesla was at his best.
With slightly over a minute remaining in the period, Nash went off for hooking. The Wild failed to score.
End of the first, 2-0 Jackets.
The teams took the ice with the Jackets still on the penalty kill. The Wild were unable to get anything going, but followed up the powerplay with some good cycling in Columbus' zone, but Mason denied them a goal.
The play was back-and-forth between the two squads until the five minute mark, when the Jackets started to turn things on offensively again. All four lines had chances in the Minnesota zone, the best of which came from the top line, with Nash feeding a streaking Jeff Carter, who put a hard shot on net. When Backstrom kicked out the rebound, R.J. Umberger fired a backhand just wide of the net.
At this point, General Manager Scott Howson must have been smiling. His two recent trade acquisitions, Letestu and Nikitin, were both having fantastic games. Both players were excelling in their roles, and Nikitin especially had looked incredibly steady in the defensive zone, and displayed his booming slap shot a pair of times.
The second period was flying by, with very few, if any, whistles, until 8:05 into the period, when the Jackets took a penalty for "too much man". The Wild had a great chance early in their powerplay, but Steve Mason made a sprawling save to end the threat. The Wild were eventually able to solve Mason however, when after Jared Spurgeon put a shot on net, it hit bodies and Matt Cullen deposited the rebound into the net.
2-1 Wild- Cullen(Brodziak, Spurgeon)
Just 20 seconds later, Nick Johnson beat Mason again on a scramble play in front. You can't blame Mason for either of these goals, as they were the direct result of failures to clear by the Columbus skaters.
2-2- Johnson (Powe, Peters)
The Wild carried the play for the next few shifts, until the Jackets' fourth line came on to the ice, and maintained possession in the Wild zone, leading to a pair of chances by Boll and Derek MacKenzie.
At this point Wild defender Zidlicky had yet to return after the Dorsett hit.
With 4:49 left in the second, Fedor Tyutin was sent off for interference. Near the end of the powerplay, the Wild carried the puck to the net, but Kyle Brodziak plowed into Mason, knocking the goalie to his back. There was no call on the play.
Random thought- the Wild shoulder patches look like the Mountain Dew logo.
With 1:28 left, Minnesota called a timeout after an icing. The Jackets dictated the play for the rest of the period, but couldn't beat Backstrom.
End of the second, 2-2.
No doubt the Wild were tired at this point, given the fact that this was their fifth game in eight nights. The Jackets needed to take advantage of this, and about two-and-a-half minutes in, the Jackets went to the powerplay after some sustained pressure from the top line.
After a scary moment when Brodziak and Mason both hacked for the puck right in front of the Columbus net, the Jackets attempted to get things set up, but failed to do so. With time left on the powerplay, Jeff Carter got his stick up in the face of Justin Falk, nullifying the man advantage.The Wild were unable to score, despite hemming the Jackets in their zone.
After a mediochre defensive effort by Jeff Carter, Bouchard was allowed to carry the puck down the wing, dropping the puck to Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck one-timed the puck past Mason to take the lead.
3-2 Wild- Clutterbuck (Bouchard, Falk)
The Wild were content to dump the puck after the goal, but the Jackets were able to string together some strong shifts. The top line made an appearance, coming close on a chance in-close.
Later in the period, the fourth line had a great shift, with all three players banging bodies and maintaining ownership of the puck in deep. That shift seemed to boost the rest of the team, as the Jackets turned things up a notch, looking to tie the game.
The Jackets pressed were pressing hard, with their best chance with 1:33 left in the game when Tyutin blasted one on net. Backstrom came up with another huge save to maintain the lead. At the whistle, the Jackets took their timeout.
Play commenced with the Jackets' net empty. The Jackets couldn't take advantage with the extra skater, and after an ugly giveaway by Wisniewski, Devin Setoguchi iced it with an empty netter.
4-2 Wild- Setoguchi (Unassisted)
Final Score- 4-2 Wild.
- Nicklas Backstrom. Another goalie looks like a lock for the Vezina against the Jackets.
- The Jackets second line of Prospal-Letestu-Johansen. Again, they were the Jackets' best unit.
- Antoine Vermette- scored his first goal of the season, a shortie at that.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Jeff Carter- absolutely dogged it on the game winning goal for Minnesota.
- Columbus' top line- they did more harm than good on this night.
- Goaltending for Columbus.
This one hurt. The Jackets thoroughly outplayed the Wild, but lost the game after two quick goals-against and a weak defensive effort by Carter on the game winner. Steve Mason wasn't tested often, and can't necessarily be blamed for the three goals-against, but he was tossing out a ton of juicy rebounds, and stopping one of the two quick ones would have gone a long way.