With the Jackets looking to follow up from their second win of the season on Sunday, they took the ice against a Maple Leafs team that, while they lead the NE division, had played the previous evening and would be handing the net to third string goaltender Ben Scrivens to give Jonas Gustavsson a rest while James Reimer continues to deal with concussion syndrome.
The team would take the ice looking rested, poised, and confident, earning an early power play after Dion Phaneuf hooked down R.J. Umberger as he drove hard to the net. The PP unit performed well, striking the iron twice, but failed to convert.
Unfortunately, that's when everything went wrong.
Following the PP, the Jackets were working to break back out of their own zone and regather their attack when Jake Gardiner picked off a long pass from James Wisniewski in the defensive zone, and the Leafs quickly reversed, with Gardiner feeding the puck to Joffrey Lupul, who opened up Joey Crabb as he cut across the the slot and fired a puck over Mason's shoulder after the Jackets' netminder lost track of the puck, scoring on Toronto's first shot of the game.
The Jackets would generate another PP and see another beautiful near miss from Kris Russell, and kill a penalty of their own when Fedor Tyutin went to the box, denying the Leafs good looks at the net.
It might have been considered a rough start but a promising finish to the period until 20 seconds left in the period, when the Leafs created another turnover, this time from Mikhail Grabovski stealing the puck off of Derick Brassard's stick in the neutral zone and reversing to Clark MacArthur, who slid down the boards to the half wall and launched a shot that floated weakly in and sailed past Steve Mason's leg pad, marking two goals on four shots for the visitors.
In the first intermission, there was a fair amount of speculation that Scott Arniel might sit Mason down after going 50% in the first, but it would indeed be #1 leading the Jackets onto the ice for the middle frame, and it would be Mason who the Leafs would burn in the first minute when John-Michael Liles took a shot from the left faceoff dot that Phil Kessel perfectly screened the netminder from seeing, the third goal on six shots.
The Jackets had already been outshooting the Leafs by almost double, and if anything, the offense attempted to push even harder, but Scrivens had an answer (or some outright luck) for every scoring attempt.
Finally, just past the five minute mark of the second period, Clark MacArthur came back into the zone, carried the puck through the D, and unloaded a hard slapper from the top of the left faceoff dot. It was a shot that saw nothing between the net and Mason other than empty air...and Mason simply couldn't make the save. 11 shots. 4 goals.
Scott Arniel's hand was forced. Mason was removed, and Allen York was playing in his third NHL game.
To York's credit, he battled hard, stopped a couple of tricky shots, and looked, if not like an NHL goaltender, at least like a better answer than Mason had.
Ryan Johansen would score his third goal of the season on a hacking, whacking, greaseball of a goal as he cleaned up the rebound from a Vermette attempt and finally forced it past Scrivens, but that would be the only goal the Jackets produced despite 39 shots, more than a few of them solid scoring chances, winning over half of the faceoffs, heavily outhitting the opposition, and drawing more than a few penalties.
It didn't matter. The team was placed in a hole by their starting goaltender, and their head coach allowed him to dig so deep that there simply was no way out. It's doubly frustrating because I believe that had they gotten simply average goaltending, I think the Jackets would have been in this game. Would they have won? Hard to say. But I think they would have stood a decent chance of getting at least a point.
Unfortunately, barring a trade or a sudden regeneration of health among Curtis Sanford or Mark Dekanich, the team has no choice but to give Mason another start on Saturday. The only other choice is to risk another road start for York, and hope.
- Ryan Johansen - In this 10th game, Johansen scored another goal from a combination of his raw talent and a willingness for hard work.
- Allen York - A good performance in a wretched situation.
- R.J. Umberger - Drawing several penalties, 7 shots on goal, and strong physical play, Umberger's effort stood out.
- Special Teams - The PP didn't convert but actually looked dangerous, and there were at least three "pure bad luck" bounces off the post, off Scrivens' equipment, and one heartbreaker that hit the inside post yet stayed out. The PK denied Toronto on both of their opportunities.
- Steve Mason - There's no nice way to put it. Mason was incredibly bad tonight, and let the team depending on him down.
- Fedor Tyutin - Despite his defense partner having a worse +/- rating (though I find it hard to argue that any of the GAs were one defender's fault), Tyutin had the worse night. Taking two bad penalties, throwing a ton of blind passes, and failing to maneuver the puck well on offense.
- Sammy Pahlsson - If Pahlsson had been able to do ANYTHING with pucks around the net, we might not have cleaned up the score sheet, but it might have at least been a more "respectable" loss.