When the Jackets prepared for their rematch with the defending Stanley Cup Champions, it's obviously they were ready for a physical, tight checking, in your face game.
They got that, in spades, but lapses in judgement became too much for this team to overcome, and Boston head coach Claude Julien made some ballsy calls that changed the entire tempo of the game, while Columbus suffered a major loss that Scott Arniel could not adjust for.
Fans looking for blood on the ice got their wish early when Jared Boll and Shawn Thornton dropped their gloves within the first three minutes in a tilt that was pretty clearly a decision for Thornton, but Boll put a few licks in for a respectable showing.
Then, the Jackets really got the sellout crowd going when Vinny Prospal flipped a puck into the neutral zone for Rick Nash, who kicked it from skates to stick before blowing past the Boston defense. One on one with Tim Thomas, the Captain ripped a blistering shot through the Conn Smythe winner's five hole, and the fans were on their feet with raucous energy. The party continued a few minutes later with Milan Lucic in the box for a hooking call when Jeff Carter cleaned up a rebound off a Derick Brassard shot to fire a shot over a sprawling Thomas for the 2-0 lead.
The boys in Union Blue were primed to extend the lead when Lucic went back to the box on a double minor for a slash and cross-check on R.J. Umberger (the slash was actually committed by Thomas, which is a bit of foreshadowing, but who's counting?), but Tim Thomas was able to make an incredible sprawling glove save on what looked like a guaranteed backhand goal for Vinny Prospal, and the Bruins managed to kill the remaining penalty time before roaring back to get into the game on a long shot from Joe Corvo on the point that bounced off James Wisniewski and past Sanford.
Things went from bad to worse in the dying minute of the period when the Bruins capitalized on a bad clearing pass by Rick Nash. Andrew Ference would take a shot that rebounded off a Jeff Carter block to Lucic, and the agitator would throw the puck to Nathan Horton in the slot for a shot that Curtis Sanford seemed to be unable to see through traffic, tying the game.
Making matters worse, the Bruins would get an early power play in the second period and convert on a blistering Zdeno Chara slap shot, but the Jackets could not answer in kind when Andrew Ference was sent off for a high stick. The Bruins and Jackets traded two more penalties before Derek Dorsett broke out of his zone on an odd man rush, attacking the Boston net. Dorsett cut in around the defense and Tim Thomas came out of his crease to make an attempt at a poke-check, but the move knocked Dorsett off his skates and lead to a gruesome landing where the energetic forward appeared to land with his left leg at an extreme angle. (We are hearing whispers that Dorsett has a broken ankle, but the team will not confirm anything right now.)
When the referee brought his arm up, the crowd intially cheered, thinking Dorsett would be awarded a tripping call, but the declaration of "15 Columbus, 2 minutes for Goaltender Interference!" brought a rain of boos as the Jackets' winger was helped from the ice by training staff.
The boos would follow Boston through the rest of the period whenever they touched the puck, and the Jackets seemed to draw energy from them, with R.J. Umberger tying the game on a rush up ice after a perfect Samuel Pahlsson outlet pass, muscling through Dennis Seidenberg and beating Thomas 5-hole again.
Apparently that goal caused a bit of a stir from the Bruins, as David Krecji said something at the ensuing faceoff that triggered a virtual line brawl. Krejci and Pahlsson would receive matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but neither team would convert 4 on 4, and the period would end with Lucic taking another tripping penalty right in front of the Jackets' bench just before the horn sounded.
Claude Julien had a surprise for the third period - the Bruins announced that Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas were both being removed from the game and would not return, Chara for an undisclosed lower body ailment and Thomas due to having a "shaky night", putting Tuukka Rask in goal. The change paid off immediately, as Rask shut down the period-opening PP, and the Bruins would show no such weakness when Antoine Vermette would go for a hook on Shawn Thornton.
Joe Corvo would score his second goal of the night in very similar fashion, ripping a slap shot that Curtis Sanford could not get his glove on, and the Bruins rode the wave for the remainder of the contest, drawing more ire from the home fans when a collison by Lucic with Curtis Sanford was NOT given a penalty, and a slash on Ryan Johansen by Krejci went uncalled.
Trying to find a tying goal, the Jackets put solid pressure on Rask late, but Fedor Tyutin would make a bad turnover and pay for it with a hooking call when he attempted to slow down Brad Marchand, and Chris Kelly would score a dagger parked in front of Sanford and waiting for a pass from Patrice Bergeron that he snapped over the glove side shoulder as boos rained down from the stands.
Final Score - Bruins 5 - Jackets 3
The post game comments from the head coach seemed to echo the thoughts of many fans when he was asked about the team taking an early lead: "Lot of hockey played after that. Tied the game up, had a chance to win the hockey game." Arniel's voice was clipped and tight with frustration, and it did not improve when he discussed the injury to Derek Dorsett. "We won't know until tomorrow, but he's an important player on our team. My opinion on it was it's a reaction to what's been going on around the league...Thomas was outside the blue paint and made contact with Dorse...he (Dorsett) was making a hockey play, but I'm sure referees have been told to keep an eye on goalies. It's unfortunate, it was a hockey play."
His discussion of the team's woes was frank, and he was equally honest discussing the team's missed chances: "We had a four minute power play, we needed to bury it. We had a few chances to extend that lead, and we didn't."
- Derek Dorsett - If his injury is as bad as it looked, that's a killer. Dorsett had truly raised his game of late, and was a major secondary scoring threat. We need his heart and his fire. Who will step up to provide a spark for this team if he's out long-term?
- James Wisniewski - He had a couple of bad plays, but he also factored into the first period scoring.
- R.J. Umberger - R.J. not only tied the game in the second but was under the Bruins' skin all night. He seemed more like the Umby we need, not the Umby we'd been getting. Here's hoping that continues.
- Sammy Pahlsson - Great pass on R.J.'s goal and good for him on not taking any shit from Krejci.
- Fans - Sellout crowd and they never stopped letting the Bruins (and Refs) hear it.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Curtis Sanford - The Sandman looked like he was falling asleep at the worst possible times. He can't be blamed for a goal when he has three guys in front of him and a 100MPH slapper coming his way, but three of the five Boston goals were buttery soft and/or created by Sanford letting a nasty rebound out.
- Power Play - After the early tally the Jackets simply couldn't find an answer when it was desperately needed.
- Third Period Woes - The Jackets are 1-6-2 when tied after 2 periods. Think about what 6 more wins would mean to this team.
- Injuries - Because god dammit.
The Jackets will take on Vancouver on Tuesday to continue to home stand. In all honesty, they played well and hung tough against the Stanley Cup Champions. No shame in that. But we need them to take control of the damn game against the Canucks.
Sanford has looked shaky for the last two games. It may be time to give Steve Mason a chance for redemption. God help us all.