COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 13: Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets takes the ice for the game against the Vancouver Canucks at Nationwide Arena on December 13, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
The Jackets were in for a tough test tonight, but backed by strong goaltending from Steve Mason, a regulation goal from Jeff Carter and three straight goals in the shootout they ended the night on a winning note. It was one of those victories that feels better because it was hard-earned.
Read on for a recap of the night that was.First Period
The first bit of news prior to puck drop was that Samuel Pahlsson didn't dress due to injury, with Aaron Johnson sliding in as the twelfth forward. Both teams traded chances early on, with the Canucks getting a good chance about 3 minutes in, when the puck took a funny bounce behind the net, sliding back towards the front of the net. Mason was able to find the puck and cover up.
R.J. Umberger had a great chance seconds later, beating Robert Luongo with a weak backhand, but the puck slowed down after it went five-hole on Luongo, allowing the big goaltender to reach behind and smother it.
The Jackets started to pepper the Vancouver net, getting a handful of scoring chances. Nikita Nikitin, as he has since being acquired, looked steady early.
The play then became sloppy, with both teams turning the puck over and failing to get anything going in the opposition zones. This sloppy play led to a sequence where Fedor Tyutin committed a trip, with Henrik Sedin following that up by cross-checking Tyutin. Both players went to the box, putting the teams four-on-four.
While the teams were each down a man, Ryan Kesler cross-checked Grant Clitsome, giving the Jackets an abbreviated four-on-three powerplay. After initially failing to establish themselves in Vancouver's zone, James Wisniewski received the puck at the point, firing a shot on net. Luongo made the save, but Jeff Carter potted the rebound to take the lead.
1-0 Jackets- Carter (Wisniewski, Letestu)
Minutes later, the ref raised his arm indicating a delayed penalty against the Canucks. The Jackets were able to maintain possession of the puck for the better part of a minute before the Canucks touched it, and the Jackets came within inches of going up by two. Jeff Carter entered the zone, juked around a defender, and slid the puck over the Rick Nash for the one-timer. Nash's shot hit the outside of the net.
The Jackets then went to the man advantage. They were able to fire a couple of shots on Luongo, but couldn't solve him. I was disappointed by the play of Ryan Johansen while up a man. He seemed tentative and had a pair of turnovers by my count. I'd hate to think he's hit his rookie wall already.
Shortly after, on a faceoff in Vancouver's zone, Dane Byers was jousting with the winger opposite him, and his stick rode up into his face. He was called for high-sticking, but the Jackets were able to kill the penalty.
End of the first, 1-0 Jackets.
Mason Watch: So far, so good! He wasn't tested much, but made the saves he had to.
The start to the second period was hilarious. After winning the faceoff, the Jackets literally all blew a tire at once, as if somebody lobbed a grenade on the ice. They were lucky to not get scored on, they were eventually able to get the puck up-ice.
Moments later, Derick Brassard was called for tripping Maxim Lapierre. On their first crack at Steve Mason, the big goalie responded with a big glove save. With just seconds left in the penalty, Antoine Vermette created an opportunity by beating two defenders for a partial breakaway. He slid the puck over to Derek MacKenzie, but Mac couldn't control it. The Jackets went on to kill the penalty.
The Canucks started to turn the tide in their favor, putting a ton of rubber on net. Steve Mason stood tall, however, making some impressive saves to maintain the lead. At one point Mason was beat by a hard blast from the point, but the crossbar was there to save the day.
With under thirteen minutes left in the period, Ryan Johansen went to the box. Mase made a pair of exceptional saves early in the kill, and followed those up with another pair of awesome saves. Your goaltender needs to be your best penalty killer, and on that man disadvantage Mason was simply outstanding.
The kill gave the Jackets life, and they spent the next few minutes controlling the puck in the Vancouver zone. While they couldn't solve Luongo, they did come away with a handful of scoring chances.
Late in the period Alexandre Burrows bumped Mason and went off for goaltender interference. The Jackets couldn't convert while up a man, but Johansen looked more engaged than at any point prior. Also, in the just sayin' vein, Mark Letestu is a pretty good distributor on the point. He's a really versatile player.
End of the second, 1-0 Jackets.
Mason Watch: Was excellent in the second period. Made a handful of outstanding saves.
Both goaltenders were busy for the better part of the first five minutes of the third. The teams traded chances back and forth, with both goaltenders rising up to the challenge.
Around the five minute mark Ryan Johansen shoulder-checked Keith Ballard, it was a clean hit but the fact that Johansen is taller than Ballard made the hit look worse than it was, catching Ballard on the nose. A scrum ensued, but no penalties were called.
With just over 11 minutes left in the game, the Canucks tied it up. Grant Clitsome broke his stick, and went to the bench to get new lumber. In doing so, he left his man, who turned out to be Maxim Lapierre. Lapierre took a feed from behind the net and wired a shot past Mason to tie the game.
1-1: Lapierre (Higgins)
The Jackets didn't roll over after getting scored on, rather they started to buzz around Luongo. They didn't get many quality scoring chances, but they were showing a great compete level.
At one point though, the Canucks started to roll. Mason was tested many times, but on one occasion, he tweaked what appeared to be his hamstring. My first guess was that it was a cramp, because he didn't seem to twist his knee or leg. Curtis Sanford came into the game in relief. A shame, because Mason was having a terrific game to that point.
Seconds after Sanford got to the net, Nash went to the box for high-sticking after a missed stick-lift. The best chance on the Vancouver powerplay was actually by the Jackets, with Vermette racing in on a partial break, but Luongo made the save to keep the game tied. The Canucks couldn't score.
After the TV timeout, Mason returned to the net. Must have been a cramp. We've all been there, it feels like a steel pipe bulging in your thigh when the hammy locks up.
The play was mostly contained within the neutral zone until the end of regulation.
End of the third, 1-1.
The Jackets were the better team for the first half of the overtime period. They were cycling the puck well, and prevented the Canucks from leaving their zone. With under a minute left, the Canucks had a fantastic chance when Chris Higgins put the puck on net, and with Ballard crashing the net, the puck slid in the blue paint, but Mason was able to fall back and smother it.
End of the overtime period, 1-1.
CBJ- Letestu: GOAL
VAN- Hodgson: SAVE
CBJ- Nash: GOAL
VAN- Burrows: GOAL
CBJ- Wisniewski: GOAL
Final Score: 2-1 Jackets (SO)
- Steve Mason. Was terrific tonight. He had no chance on the regulation goal against, and was very solid, especially in the second period.
- James Wisniewski was the shootout hero, scoring a beauty off a backhand deke.
- I thought Derick Brassard had a strong game, with the exception of his penalty. He is proving he belongs.
- The Jackets PK. The worst kill in the league was outstanding tonight, forcing the Canucks to go O-fer on the man advantage.
- Keith Ballard- I thought the Canucks defenseman had a strong gane, especially with the puck.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Thigh cramps.
- Ryan Kesler, because I don't like him that much.
- Grant Clitsome leaving his man to get a new stick, which led to the only goal against for Vancouver.
Though the game wasn't pretty to watch, it was a gutsy, well-earned victory over one of the league's top teams. It was great to see Steve Mason play so well after losing the starter's job last month. Scott Arniel has a big decision to make. If you ask me, I'd go with Mase next game.