Game 62 Recap: Jackets Stumble In Marathon

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 1: Goalie Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks stops R.J. Umberger #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period in NHL action on March 01, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

I'll be honest - like probably 90% of you, I fell asleep trying to watch the game. I was doing OK until the second intermission, and then my body dragged me to bed with my brain totally unaware of what was going on around me...and that sucks, because despite the fact that the Jackets only got one point out of last night, they gave a hell of an effort.

Despite the long trip and the upheavals of adding Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto to the lineup after yesterday's trade, the team came out clearly game for a fight, and put a lot of pressure on the Canucks early, even before drawing the first of several power play opportunities.

Unfortunately, Roberto Luongo was in about as fine a form as I've ever seen him, and he denied every challenge the Jackets put in front of him, despite being slammed for 13 shots in the first period alone. 

Steve Mason also looked good, including a couple of nice saves on rushes by the Sedin Twins and Ryan Kesler, but it would be the Canucks who scored first when Antoine Vermette made a bad play inside the Canucks zone, and Sami Lepisto attempted to play the puck out of the Jackets' zone after recovering, but ended up popping the puck over to Ryan Kesler instead.

Kesler would shuffle the puck to Mason Raymond, Jan Hejda would not get over to push him away from the slot in time, and he'd pop the puck past Steve Mason for a 1-0 lead.

However, it would be one of the new guys in the crowd who got the Jackets back into it in the second period, when Derek Dorsett won a board battle with Maxime  Lapierre, pushed the puck back along the boards to Sammy Pahlsson, and Pahlsson found Scottie Upshall with a good look at the left faceoff dot. Upshall unleashed a lightning fast wrist shot, and he'd scored before Luongo even realized what had happened - an encouraging start for the new winger.

Despite finding themselves with three more power play opportunities, and several breakaway attempts, including a beautiful rush by R.J. Umberger that he couldn't get elevated over Luongo's pads, and a Rick Nash / Jake Voracek 2 on 1 that the Captain was unable to finish, the Jackets withstood everything the Canucks had, including killing a late double minor on Upshall for high sticking, and OT was called for, giving both teams at least one point in the Western Conference race.

Neither side found an advantage in OT, but Rick Nash gave Columbus an early lead in the shootout, and Steve Mason denied Jeff Tambellini and Ryan Kesler, but the Jackets couldn't find a second goal, and Mason Raymond was able to keep the skills competition alive.

Antoine Vermette and Alexandre Burrows scored, but the contest would eventually go to four more rounds of shooters (including both Sedin twins, Matt Calvert, Fedor Tyutin, and R.J. Umberger) before Raffi Torres, the former Jacket, put a spike on his old teammates with a shot that beat Mason and ended the contest.

Despite the loss, the Jackets put in one hell of an effort, and still earned a point. It's not the result I wanted, but any time you go against the top team in the West, totally shut down their power play, and take them to an extended shootout? That's a good effort, and it at least gives the team somewhere to build off of as they travel to take on Edmonton on Thursday.

Standard Bearers:

  • Scottie Upshall - Welcome to Columbus! Aside from a big goal, Upshall spent the night banging bodies, causing trouble, and seemed to be developing some good chemistry with Pahlsson and Dorsett. That's encouraging.
  • Steve Mason - Mase stopped 25 of 26 shots in regulation and OT, plus 6 of 8 attempts in the shootout. He put up a fantastic effort, he just didn't get enough goal support in front of him.
  • Matt Calvert - Even though his point streak was broken, Calvert hustled all game, drawing two penalties and constantly going for the puck. 
  • PK - Shut down the top power play in the NHL and kept the team in it late.

Bottom Of The Barrel:

  • Breakaways / Shootout - Anyone else betting that the team (particularly Umberger) will be doing breakaway drills in Edmonton today? Even before the shootout, I counted five odd man rush or breakaway attempts that the Jackets couldn't bury. Some of that goes to Luongo being on fire, but damn.
  • Power Play - After being red hot in February, the PP looked a bit tepid last night. Again, Luongo was the Canuck's best penalty killer by a mile, but one more goal tonight could have changed the entire game.

Again - not too disappointed. The boys put up a hell of an effort, and they came away with SOMETHING, even if not the full two points. The rest of the trip, though, is turning into must-win status. They need to beat the teams they should beat (Edmonton, St. Louis), and they MUST beat Calgary to convert one of the four games games in hand over the Flames into leverage towards a playoff spot.

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