After a dramatic shootout victory against the Flames the previous night, the Jackets looked to continue the momentum and take another two points from the province of Alberta with a back to back matchup against the Oilers.
Given an injection of fresh blood by the return of Kristian Huselius to the lineup, head coach Scott Arniel made the decision to return Derick Brassard and Aaron Johnson to the lineup. Cody Bass and John Moore would be given healthy scratches, while Jeff Carter was held out of the game due to a lingering leg injury suffered in Calgary.
Despite a few heroic performances, however, the Jackets found more frustration waiting for them in Rexall place, a building they have not won in since January of 2010.
With Rick Nash taking a hooking penalty in the first 20 seconds of the game, the Oilers wasted no time to punish the visiting team, with Jordan Eberle set up for a one-timer on a perfect backdoor pass from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Curtis Sanford was unable to react in time, and the Jackets would be forced to get back into the game from a 1-0 deficit.
That answer would come in the dying minutes of the period with the Jackets on a 5 on 3 power play thanks to Darcy Hordichuk taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting Derek Dorsett following a nasty, brutish, and short fight with Jared Boll, and a too many men on the ice penalty served by Eberle. With Letestu playing the point alongside James Wisniewski, Wiz would unload a shot, Nash collected the rebound and he delivered it back to Letestu, who rifled a shot past Devan Dubnyk's glove with 15 seconds left of the two man advantage.
The Jackets would be unable to capitalize on the final 1:30 of power play time to finish the period, but dominated the first period with 21 shots, while only allowing Edmonton seven shots on Sanford.
In the second period both teams had opportunities, but it would be Jared Boll who triggered the next shift in momentum when he tangled up with Hordichuk again and delivered a spectacularly poorly timed cross check. With Boll in the box, Edmonton looked to take a lead, but Tom Gilbert would bobble the puck back in his own zone. Derek Dorsett leapt on the loose puck and charged in on Dubnyk, and the Edmonton goaltender missed his poke check, allowing Dorsett a wide open net to shoot on.
The Oilers attempted to close the gap, but Sanford made some exceptional saves, including a heartstopper on Jordan Eberle in the dying seconds to preserve the lead heading into the second intermission.
Unfortunately, the Jackets' habit of playing a great early game and a poor late game would rear its' head once again, and while the team might blame "tired legs" after a back to back, the mistakes were more of a mental variety.
Less than two minutes into the final period Aaron Johnson would give the puck away to Ryan Smyth in his own zone, and Captain Canada would toss the puck behind the Columbus net to Ryan Jones, who wrapped around and bounced the puck in off Grant Clitsome's leg to tie the game.
The next mistake came a few minutes later when Fedor Tyutin turned the puck over at his own blue line to Tom Gilbert, who sent the puck to Ladislav Smid at the opposite point. Jordan Eberle set a screen in front of Curtis Sanford (with a little help from Marc Methot), and the blueliner slammed a point shot home to put the Oilers back in the lead, and Edmonton would not look back.
Jones would score his second of the night when Sammy Pahlsson was unable to cut off a cross-ice pass from Eric Belanger, giving him a clean look at the net despite four defenders in front of Sanford.
Derek Dorsett would cut the lead back down to one with his second goal of the night, grabbing the rebound of a Methot point shot and pounding it into the net, but the game would be decided with a little over four minutes left in the game. Aaron Johnson would be beaten to a puck by Ales Hemsky coming out of his own zone, and the perennial Jacket Killer would cut in behind Grant Clitsome to beat Sanford with a wicked backhand.
Injury was added to insult when Derick Brassard was caught behind the Edmonton net by Theo Peckham and crunched into the boards. There was no penalty on the play, but the forward was unable to rise for several seconds, and was in clear difficulty making it back to the bench.
The final painful moment came with Curtis Sanford on the bench for an extra attacker, and Shawn Horcoff carried the puck up ice with Jones in the dying seconds of the period before passing off to Jones to allow him to complete his hat trick with the empty net goal.
Final Score: Oilers 6 - Jackets 3
- Derek Dorsett - Two goals and constantly aggressive play. He may not be a top six winger, but he's opportunistic and one of very few Jackets to actually look defensively responsible against the Edmonton speed.
- Mark Letestu - Another power play goal for the Test Tube.
- Ryan Johansen - Johansen was tied for the team lead with four shots despite only receiving 11 minutes of ice time.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Lineup Decisions - I understand the logic of trying to introduce Huselius back into the lineup for an offensive boost on a back to back (especially considering his performance in a similar situation last year), but the wholesale line juggling seemed to hurt. Missed passes and hesitation lead to turnovers all over the ice, often to lethal result. The team didn't have a choice about losing Jeff Carter, but minimizing the changes might have been a better idea. Also, when playing a speedy young team, why was one of our best speedy young d-men benched?
- Third Period Collapse - AGAIN. What will it take for this team to consistently play 60 minutes?
- Team Defense - There were plenty of individual mistakes, but the failure was systemic. Fatigue was certainly part of it, but the Jackets had this game and they tossed it away.
The Jackets will fly to Montreal next to finish the road trip, and perhaps salvage at least a .500 result if we are lucky and the gods are kind. Curtis Sanford had maybe two bad goals, but generally made some strong stops against one of the highest scoring teams in the NHL right now. Derek Dorsett keeps turning his game up. Ryan Johansen clearly wants to be a difference maker. But we need the entire roster to show that same level of commitment, or heroic efforts will come to a bittersweet end again.