Game 18 Recap: So Close

"Why are we here again / It's the same ol' sit down roll around / Chewed up pen
Nothin' thrilling me too much, yeah / Nothing thrilling me
Yeah, so close now / Yeah, so close now
Man, I nearly snapped my twig / Then again I nearly snapped / A few of you
So I hear you think highly now / So I hear you think
Yeah, so close now."
--"So Close" by Alice in Chains

The Bruins came into this game streaking, and the Blue Jackets came into this game reeling. I will admit to thinking that this one would be over by the first intermission, and that the Bruins would be feasting. And, while the Jackets couldn't get it done tonight, at the end of the night it's hard to be too mad at them for this game.

Curtis Sanford was the big story for Columbus, as he made his first start, gave Steve Mason the night off, and seemed to instill some confidence in his defense, who in turn played a bit harder and kept things as clean as possible.

However, it would be their lack of finishing--AGAIN--that would keep them from getting the two points.

1st Period

The two teams came out physical, and felt each other out for a bit. In a period marked by a total lack of shots (11 total between the two teams), it would be Marc Methot's leg and the friendly crossbar that would keep this game scoreless through one.

Early on it was Methot making a great play to rob Milan Lucic of a wide open net by going down and taking a shot to the back of the knee. Given Curtis Sanford's position at the time, it certainly would have been a goal without Methot's intervention.

The Jackets took another ridiculous too-many-men penalty, but a solid penalty kill--including some time at the end with both Rick Nash and Jeff Carter on the PK unit and looking good--kept the Bruins off the board. Finally, they got a little lucky. Around the 16:40 mark, Benoit Pouliot grabbed a rebound and skated in on Sanford's right. He tried to roof a shot that beat Sanford, but clanged off the crossbar and kicked away.

At the end of the first, the Jackets were still even, but only had five shots on goal.

End of 1st: 0-0 tie

2nd Period

After a defensive first period, both teams would get going early before the defense would settle back in. Columbus went on the Power Play just 50 seconds in as Gregory Campbell took a high sticking penalty. The Jackets' PP was pretty dreadful for the first 119 seconds, but it was that last one that mattered.

The puck trickled back out to the right point, where Grant Clitsome drifted to the center of the blue line with it. He fed it back right to Nikita Nikitin, who unleashed a point shot that found it's way through traffic courtesy of a Derek MacKenzie re-direct to beat Tuukka Rask.

1-0 Blue Jackets: Derek MacKenzie (3rd) at 2:49 from Nikita Nikitin and Grant Clitsome - PPG 

The Jackets, as is their general m.o., couldn't stand the taste of success. The Bruins would tie it up less than two minutes later, as Adam McQuaid would intercept a clearing attempt, settle the puck, and fire a point shot on net that would sneak by Curtis Sanford thanks to some help from a Rich Peverley screen.

1-1: Adam McQuaid (1st) at 4:24 - EV

Four minutes later, it was Jared Boll dropping the gloves with Shawn Thornton after finishing a check. Thornton got Boller's sweater half-off, and though the fight was basically a draw, Boller got a nice shot in late after getting Thornton's helmet off (and for a brief second pulling his sweater up over his eyes).

Despite some more glorious chances for Boston, the Jackets held on and hung in. They collapsed down low and blocked a lot of shots in front as well as cleared out some rebounds from the front steps. Likewise, the Jackets would have a couple of gorgeous chances. Once they were robbed by Rask, and a second time Derek Dorsett was unable to put home a bouncing rebound late.

The nice thing about that last chance was that it was set up by RIck Nash and Jeff Carter, who showed a flash of what they're capable of together, at last. Nash chased the puck in deep, checked it away from a Bruins defender, and fed a slick pass to Carter in the high slot. Carter unleashed his super-quick shot, and Rask was able to pad it away off in front. Dorsett was crashing, but as he tried to poke home the rebound it hopped over his stick.

Both Rask and Sanford earned high marks in this period for standing tall. The Jackets out-shot the Bruins 14-8 in the period to take a 19-14 shots edge into the third.

End of 2nd: 1-1 tie

3rd Period

The third period was crazy, end-to-end action for pretty much the full 20 minutes. The Jackets deserve credit, as they hung in and traded punches with one of the hottest teams in the league right now. Shots were eight apiece, and the period ended with Columbus at a 27-22 advantage.

The Jackets had some great chances early in the period, including a Rick Nash rip off the short-side post early on, as well as a very well played Power Play that resulted from a Pouliot roughing call at 1:57. Jeff Carter was very noticeable on the PP, and he finally looks like he's knocking the rust off.

But, the story for the Jackets was Curtis Sanford. He was HUGE in net for the Jackets, making a tremendous couple of saves late. The biggest heart-attack was when James Wisniewski broke his stick trying a point shot with about 25 seconds left in the period. The Bruins ended up with a 3-on-2 rush (Wiz got back and got a stick from the bench), and a shot got deflected and flew high in the air. Sanford came out of his crease to play the puck, and it got tipped away from him as it came down. It slid across the open crease, but no one was able to knock it home.

End of 3rd: 1-1 tie

OT

The overtime was crazy, with both teams having chances to put the game away. Rask and Sanford were both dynamite, stopping all nine combined shots in the period. Their teams in front of them wouldn't make it easy, with both clubs taking penalties in the period. Antoine Vermette got pinched for a slash 1:05 in after a Jackets turnover led to a scoring chance for Boston.

The Jackets managed to kill off the 4-on-3, though Boston got some tremendous looks. Zdeno Chara rattled a gigantic shot off the post at one point.

The Jackets got a chance, with just over 51 seconds of PP time to end the game after Andrew Ference went off for boarding Wisniewski. The Jackets, likewise, could not convert.

End of OT: 1-1 tie

Shootout

Tyler Seguin (BOS) - MISS
Rick Nash (CBJ) - MISS
Rich Peverley (BOX) - SCORE
Mark Letestu (CBJ) - SCORE
David Krejci (BOS) - SCORE
Antoine Vermette (CBJ) - MISS

Final Score: Bruins 2, Blue Jackets 1 - SO

Standard Bearers

  • Curtis Sanford - I can't see how Scott Arniel doesn't go back to him again. I would argue the guys in front of him were playing harder than they have at times for Steve Mason, but Sanford earned another start since the next game in Nashville isn't a back-to-back. Sanford stopped 26 of 27 shots in the game, made some solid saves, and never looked rattled.
  • Tuukka Rask - Another goalie that flummoxed the Jackets' skill again, and kept the big guns off the scoreboard. 30 saves for Rask.
  • Derek MacKenzie - DMac had a goal on a redirection, and almost had another one off a great feed from Vinny Prospal in the second, if not for a great save by Rask. 

Bottom of the Barrel

  • Finishing - I can't really single anyone out, as there were again several culprits, and the Jackets again had a ton of shots and scored just one goal. Rick Nash had a couple of golden chances and couldn't bury, ditto Jeff Carter. Until this team learns to capitalize on the chances they're given, they're not going to win.
  • Shootouts - Kind of goes with the above, but the Jackets' shoot-out woes continue. You just never feel like they're going to win one, because they can't finish.

At the end of the night, it's still a loss. But, it's a point, and it's a point on the road against a team that was just eviscerating their opponents of late. Boston was scoring five and a half goals a game over their previous six, and the Jackets gave them all they could handle on their home ice.

It has to be a building block to something, though. The Jackets can't be content with being close.

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