As expected, tonight's game was physical and full of ill temper. It was exciting, with multiple lead changes. The Jackets led at two different times tonight, but a fluky goal, along with a softie later allowed the Blues to come away with a victory.
Check after the jump for a breakdown of the action.
The first eight minutes of the game flew by, with the Jacjets dictating much of the play to that point. Steve Mason, the surprise starter after Curtis Sanford couldn't go due to back spasms, shut the door early.
Shortly before the midpoint of the opening period, the teams traded matching penalties, going four-on-four. Neither teams could score, but seconds after the teams went back to full strength, the Jackets took the lead.
1-0 Jackets: MacKenzie (Tyutin)
The Blues wasted no time responding to the MacKenzie. After the faceoff, the Blues' Matt D'Agostini skated up the left wing, and wired a pass in front of Mason where a pinching Kevin Shattenkirk fired the puck into the net.
1-1: Shattenkirk (D'Agostini)
The Jackets seemed to crumble a bit after the goal. Their play was sloppy, and 1:03 after the Shattenkirk goal, the Blues scored again. Tyutin had a failed clear, and after Mason made a save of a Blues forward, T.J Oshie wired the rebound into the net to take the lead.
2-1 Blues: Oshie (Backes)
The Jackets started to push back after allowing two quick goals against, but most of their offensive chances were from the perimeter, or featured one player going it alone while his linemates went off on a change. There was a complete lack of cohesion at times, with Halak making easy saves to maintain the lead.
End of the first, 2-1 Blues.
The Blues got things going early in the second. After a point shot hit traffic in front, Jason Arnott gathered the puck, and while alone in front he flipped a backhand towards the open net, but Mason made an impressive glove save to rob Arnott.
I have to comment on the Blues defense- I love how it's constructed. Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo, Russell. Three young guys who can move the puck. Colaiacovo, Jackman, Polak. Three veterans who are great partners for the young kids, who can shut opposition forwards down and contribute occasional offense themselves.
At the four minute mark of the period, Nikita Nikitin, the former Blue, slid the puck over to Fedor Tyutin at the left point. Tyuts blasted a hard shot into the traffic in front, and the puck climbed up and over Halak's shoulder after being redirected.
2-2: Dorsett (Tyutin, Nikitin)
The goal gave the Jackets some real jump. The line of Vinny Prospal, Jeff Carter and Mark Letestu had a handful of glorious chances on one particular shift, with Halak standing tall. Nikitin was blasting the puck at every opportunity. He, along with his fellow blueliners, have been given the green light to open fire from the points at every opportunity. This is a good thing.
At 8:15 the Jackets went to the powerplay when David Backes hit R.J. Umberger from behind. Due to a combination of tenacious forechecking by the Blues penalty killers and boneheadedness (?) on behalf of the Jackets, Columbus failed to score.
Moments later after MacKenzie was crunched near the Jackets' bench, a scrum ensued. After some jousting, Dane Byers and Roman Polak were allowed to throw down. After taking a couple of pops from Polak, Byers countered with a strong right that dropped Polak. Byers continued to feed Polak punches as the two went down, which led to one of the linesman tackling Byers. Too be honest, Byers is lucky he doesn't slam his head on the ice after taking that blow.
Scott Nichol and MacKenzie were given matching roughing minors as well, and the teams went back to four-on-four. Even with the ice opening up, neither team could score.
Though the game was barely more than half-over, the match had degraded to one of those "scrum-at-every-whistle" affairs, killing momentum for both sides.
On what was admittedly a cheesy call, Kevin Shattenkirk finished his check on Antoine Vermette, but was called for boarding. This put the Jackets up a man to end the period, and with a little over a second left, Umberger fed Mark Letestu with a backhand pass in the slot, and Test Tube fired the puck past Halak to give the Jackets the lead. Unfortunately for the Jackets though, James Wisniewski was injured on the play.
3-2 Jackets: Letestu (Umberger, Brassard)
End of the second, 3-2 Jackets.
It was only about a minute into the third before the Blues tied the game. The goal was a fluke, plain and simple. A shot from the point went high, and T.J. Oshie lifted his stick in the air, almost in defense. The puck deflected horizontally across the ice and right to the stick of a wide open Alex Steen, who had all day to put the puck in the gaping cage.
3-3 Steen (Oshie, Colaiacovo)
Seconds after the ensuing faceoff, the Jackets went to the powerplay. Roman Polak lowered his shoulder on Umberger at center ice, and Umberger went down like he'd been shot. It was a good sell, as the refs gave Polak two minutes for checking to the head. I really hope this isn't an indication of what's to come in the NHL with their crackdown on head shots- the hit was shoulder to shoulder, and Umberger was just fine.
The Blues weren't about the let Umberger live that down, and at one point while he was standing in front of the Blues' bench, you can see the Blues players giving him the business. Umberger's stick went over the St.Louis bench, and he was given a roughing minor, but the Blues were unable to convert.
After an ugly line change, Jason Arnott was allowed to slide into the slot untouched, and naturally the puck slid to him in front of Mason. Arnott wired the puck past Mason to re-take the lead.
4-3 Blues: Arnott (Perron, Langenbrunner)
Midway through the period the Jackets turned it on, with Nash and Umberger peppering Halak with shots. Halak stood tall, but the shift gave the Jackets some life. They were starting to win some battles, and the physical play for both teams ramped up to another level. As I said earlier today, these teams DO NOT like each other.
At the 12:08 mark, Steve Mason picked a bad time to give up his obligatory softie. Alex Pietrangelo skated up the right wing and wired a shot past Mason. It was a very stoppable shot.
5-3 Blues: Pietrangelo (Backes)
Rather than roll over and die, the Jackets pushed back. After a shot from the point from Tyutin that went off Umberger in front, Brassard batted the puck out of mid air past Halak to cut the lead to one.
5-4 Blues: Brassard (Tyutin, Nash)
It was too little, too late for the Jackets though. They pulled Mason late, but the Jackets couldn't get set up with the extra man. With all six skaters in the Blues' zone, the puck made it to Wisniewski at the point. He wound up, but whiffed on the shot, allowing a three-on-one against, with the net empty. Patrik Berglund potted the goal.
6-4 Blues: Berglund (Langenbrunner, Perron)
Final Score: 6-4 Blues.
- I watched the Blues feed tonight because of audio issues with the FSOhio feed, and I have to give props to Darren Pang. I love his color work.
- Fedor Tyutin had a fantastic game, it's a shame it wasn't in a winning cause.
Derick Brassard was on this list even before he scored, solid game for #16.
- T.J. Oshie: I swear he's in the Jackets' heads.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Jeff Carter and Rick Nash. Seriously, were these guys even playing tonight?
Steve Mason's softie. We all knew it was coming, but man did it happen at a bad time.
- R.J. Umberger. As I mentioned above, I wasn't impressed with the dive that he took after getting checked by Polak. With the league cracking down on headshots, I hope this isn't the latest move by players to draw penalties. It worked in this case, but it can't work forever.
This game was actually quite entertaining. The plumbers stood out the most for the Jackets tonight, which really isn't that shocking in a game against the Blues. That said, the fact that Rick Nash and Jeff Carter were virtually invisible, even when playing on separate lines, was troubling.
Start the Arniel watch, folks.