Game 27 Recap: Fine + Two Points

MONTREAL, CANADA - DECEMBER 6: Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets scores the game winning shootout goal against Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on December 6, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Blue Jackets defeated the Canadiens 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Transparent in the city today / Our basic program is the same / We're the only / I said "you look too familiar to be wrong / Just let me find the moment / Let me find the face"
"Fine + Two Points" by Minus the Bear

I know those lyrics are a bit... off... but the song title is just too perfect, and when I keep seeing the Blue Jackets giving up late goals in periods--including a game-tying goal in the last 90 seconds of the game--it just looked too familiar. The basic program of the Jackets' lead protections late in periods is the same. Whatever, it's all fine when you get the two points, and again in the shootout of all places.

The Jackets had some time off after three games in four nights in Western Canada, and they got a chance to go to the hockey history book tour of Montreal. After some R&R at Mont-Tremblant, the Jackets looked fresh early. However, it was their normal custom of late of giving up a completely deflating goal in the last seconds of a period--TWICE tonight--that made this one a nail-biter.

Shockingly, the Achilles heel for the Jackets that has been the shootout was again not so tonight, as Curtis Sanford was huge again in the skills competition. It wasn't pretty, but at the end of the night, it was two points and four points in four games to finish out the road trip.

Let's look at how it came to pass.

1st Period

The Jackets needed to get off to a quick start, and thanks to some well-timed pinches by their defensemen, they were able to. Early on, the top forward line generated a nice chance as Rick Nash fed the puck to Kristian Huselius from below the goal line. Juice "one-mored" the puck over to Marc Methot, who had pinched in. The puck bounced a bit, and Methot couldn't get his stick on it to put it into an empty net.

Not long after, however, the Jackets would capitalize on a Canadiens' line change. Aaron Johnson collected the puck and took it all the way in down the right side. He flung it across on net. Carey Price got his stick on it, but directed it right into the slot, where Vinny Prospal was waiting to bury it into the open net.

1-0 Jackets: Vinny Prospal (7th) at 2:03, from Aaron Johnson and R.J. Umberger - EV

Columbus carried much of the play in the period, and when they had lapses they got help from goalie Curtis Sanford. He made a sick glove save on Travis Moen after a cross-ice feed from Michael Cammalleri at the 7:18 mark, and at both the 11:00 and 15:00 marks Sanford made solid saves to keep the puck out and force rebounds wide.

The Jackets got a chance to try out their Power Play against a top-three PK unit, as Josh Gorges went off for tripping at 16:00. Columbus got a couple of good looks, but the Canadiens' PK unit was as-advertised and shut the door. And then, an awful display.

Unfortunately, as has been their custom of late, the Jackets dominated a period but went into the room with nothing to show for it. Another late-period goal from the opposition took a lot of the air out of the balloon. It was worse than normal, as James Wisniewski had the puck deep in his own zone with about five seconds left. He tried an ill-advised outlet pass through the middle of the neutral zone that was intercepted by Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri brought the puck back in and fed it to Andrei Kostitsyn on what became basically a 2-on-1, and Kostitsun knocked it by Sanford with just 1.5 seconds left. Ugh.

1-1: Andrei Kostitsyn (8th) at 19:58, from Mike Cammalleri - EV

End of 1st Period: 1-1 Tie

2nd Period

The Jackets needed to ramp it back up after such a flat ending to the first, and early on it looked like they were still in a daze. Huselius took a tripping call at 2:12, and also couldn't convert a 2-on-1 from Nash that was wide open; the puck bounced over his stick. At 8:10, Jared Boll went off for charging, and it looked like Columbus was just going to get worn down by the Habs.

However, just 14 seconds into the ensuing PP, the momentum shifted back a bit. Brian Gionta went off for a high stick to nullify the Power Play, and the play started to flow for the Jackets on the 4-on-4. Then, after a neutral-zone faceoff win by Samuel Pahlsson, R.J. Umberger got Columbus back on the board. The puck went back to Nikita Nikitin, and Umby took off down the left, receiving the pass from Niki Six and skating in on Price all alone. He beat him low to the short side to give Columbus the lead again.

2-1 Jackets: R.J. Umberger (4th) at 11:14, from Nikita Nikitin and Samuel Pahlsson - EV

Columbus got to the dressing room with another 2-1 lead. They managed to kill off another penalty (Derek Dorsett off for tripping at 15:28), and drew another penalty on the Habs to take into the dressing room, as Gorges went off for a hook at 19:14.

End of 2nd Period: 2-1 Jackets

3rd Period

We didn't see Huselius as the third period started, and as the period went on we figured out why. Juice is out with a groin injury, suffered at some point during the game. He'll be out for a few weeks, by most estimations.

The Jackets started the period on the Power Play, and got a couple of good chances right away. Both Wisniewski and Carter had looks, and Carter's shot bounced through the crease. Emblematic of the Jackets' season, there was no one there to bang it home.

As the period wore on, Columbus looked content to play "dump the puck" to try to bleed the clock. And, we all know how that usually turns out. The Jackets looked like they might weather the storm, but again it was a late period defensive collapse that did them in.

Tomas Plekanec was on the right side, and fired the puck at the net. Sanford looked to be in position, but Wisniewski skated into the crease to block the shot. The problem? He essentially kicked it away from Sanford... and right to Brian Gionta, who easily put it past Sanford.

2-2: Brian Gionta (8th) at 18:39 from Tomas Plekanec and Alexei Emelin - EV

Air, out of balloon.

End of 3rd Period: 2-2 Tie

Overtime

Nothing much to report. Both teams got a couple of chances, but there wasn't really an "OMG!!" moment in the OT.

End of Overtime: 2-2 Tie

Shootout

MTL: David Desharnais - MISS - high and wide glove side
CBJ: Ryan Johansen - MISS - Price save, backhand
MTL: Max Pacioretty - MISS - Sanford save, wrister to the body
CBJ: Rick Nash - GOAL - deke to forehand
MTL: Brian Gionta - MISS - Sanford save, deke to backhand

FInal Score: Blue Jackets 3, Canadiens 2 - SO (CBJ win shootout, 1-0)

Standard Bearers:

  • Curtis Sanford - Didn't face a high number of shots (20) in regulation/OT, but he was AGAIN huge in the shootout. He also made several solid saves. Didn't get much help on either of the goals he allowed.
  • R.J. Umberger - One of the few times this season where I've said, "Now THAT'S the Umberger I'm used to." He hustled, he scored on a mini-breakaway, and he looked to have more speed than we've routinely seen. Also had the secondary assist on the opening goal.
  • Nikita Nikitin - A slick pass to spring Umberger for his goal, his ninth point (1G, 8A) in 12 games with Columbus. Played a staggering 29:57 tonight, and was +1 with three hits and a blocked shot.

Bottom of the Barrel:

  • James Wisniewski - I know he wanted this game badly, but he played like he was trying to do too much. Both Habs goals were directly attributable to biffs on his part; he made a bad outlet pass on their first, and almost kicked the puck in on the second. Played 28:54, but was -2 in an OT game.
  • Kristian Huselius's Tendons - Second game back, another injury. He's starting to get to the age where you wonder if he's ever going to be able to play consistently again. A groin injury (seriously, how many groin injuries for the Jackets, now??) will shelf him again for a few weeks.
  • Late Period Defense - By my count, this is the third time in the last five games (St. Louis, Calgary) where the Jackets have been scored on in the last 20 seconds of a period. 1.5 seconds left was a new low, however. It has to stop.

At the end of the night, it wasn't pretty. But, it was two points, and the one point given up doesn't hurt because it's an Eastern Conference team. The Jackets have to do something with it, and come out swinging against Nashville on Thursday night.

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