Every time the Blue Jackets go into Detroit, their fans take a deep breath, and let out a soft, frustrated sigh.
Joe Louis Arena is a building where the Central Division opponents come to grief on a regular basis, and the Jackets in particular have found little but pain in the building - in franchise history, they'd only won 6 games in 10 seasons in the venerable barn.
With Steve Mason getting the start off a performance that saw him pulled after two periods on Tuesday, many questioned how he would respond. Fortunately, Mason decided to put all questions to rest for at least one evening...
While the team disappointed slightly by scratching John Moore (though the logic of giving him a day to practice with the team and get used to the NHL pace is probably not a bad one), they answered several fan prayers by deciding to scratch Kristian Huselius, and putting Matt Calvert on the second line in his place.
Though Huselius has shown some flashes of the offensive skill that make him a top 6 forward, his defensive lapses and frequent absences due to injury this season have become a regular complaint, and tonight the Jackets did not appear to suffer for his lack.
Indeed, after Mason turned away several early Detroit chances, it would be the line of R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette, and Calvert who would open the scoring in the second half of the first period. After Umberger battled the puck loose from Dan Cleary behind the Detroit net, he would get the puck up to Calvert, who paitently waited, keeping the puck away from the Wings' defense, before threading a nifty behind the back pass to Vermette as he slid into the play from the blue line, hammering the one-timer past Jimmy Howard to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead.
A little over a minute later, Rick Nash appeared to have pushed the Jackets to a 2-0 lead with a great shot from the left faceoff circle, but the referee (Francois St. Laurent) ruled that Derick Brassard had interfered with Howard (despite the fact that it was one of Howard's own teammates who collided with him), and to add insult to injury would send Brassard to the box with a minor penalty as well.
The Jackets, however, killed the Brassard penalty and would keep the 1-0 lead into the first intermission, bending but not breaking under pressure.
In the second period, both teams traded off the man advantage, but neither power play was able to find satisfaction. Instead, it would be the Jackets' fourth line who lit the lamp, with Derek MacKenzie hustling the puck around the boards before relaying down to Andrew Murray, who took the puck past the goal line, then centered a pass into the slot for Jared Boll, who snapped the puck past Howard before he could react, putting the Jackets ahead 2-0.
After killing a lengthy 5-on-3 penalty with Antoine Vermette and Jan Hejda in the box, the Jackets continued to pick up steam despite being outshot 14-7 in the second frame, and nearly taking a 3-0 lead late when R.J. Umberger raced down the ice at the end of the penalty kill with Derek Dorsett and just missed his one-timer when Dorsett passed off the puck on the 2 on 1 break.
In the third period, the Red Wings put every effort towards cracking Steve Mason, but the netminder rose to the occasion, reacting to the puck and swallowing up chances rather than overthinking or allowing the Red Wings to raise the specter of doubt in his mind. In response, the Jackets' D and forwards worked incredibly hard to keep up the forecheck, take away passing lanes, and play like dominant team, continuing to frustrate Detroit until they finally pulled Howard for the extra skater with a bit over two minutes left. With a faceoff in the Jackets' zone and the extra skater on, Scott Arniel sent out Fedor Tyutin, Jan Hejda, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette, and Andrew Murray.
Murray would reward the coach's faith less than a minute later. After Hejda cleared the puck to center ice, Antoine Vermette would pursue it into the Detroit zone, getting it away from Justin Abdelkader before sliding it to Murray, waiting at the far side of the zone, and Murray would rifle the puck into the empty cage, sealing the 3-0 victory.
Not only would this only be the 7th time the Blue Jackets had won in Joe Louis Arena, it would be the first time in franchise history that they shut out the Red Wings on their home ice.
Final Score: Jackets 3 - Red Wings 0.
- Steve Mason - 34 up, 34 down. Mase played like it was 2009 all of the sudden. A huge rebound performance after a disappointing start on Tuesday. Here's hoping we see more games like this from the young netminder.
- Matt Calvert - With 13 minutes of ice time, including just over two and a half minutes of PP time, Calvert looked quite respectable next to Umberger and Vermette, and his assist on the game winning goal was simply a work of art.
- The Fourth Line - Not only did the Boll - MacKenzie - Murray combination give the team some much needed breathing room on the scoreboard, their physical play was a big impact (pardon the pun) all evening. Lots of good checking plays and aggressive puck pursuit.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Waived Off Goals - Because, really, that was pure crap.
The Jackets can enjoy tonight, but have to be right back to work the following day as they fly home to take on the Edmonton Oilers. The puck drops at 7pm from Nationwide Arena, where John Moore is expected to make his regular season debut for the Blue Jackets.