With a strong need to grab two points tonight to keep them from slipping further back in the playoff hunt, the Jackets got off on the right foot against Calgary, and then almost immediately took two steps back. They got back into the game, then slipped again, then back in, then slipped again.
Oh, and they managed to fail on not one but two penalty shots in the same game - the first time that's happened in the NHL in almost 25 years.
So I guess we can at least call it a historic effort...
The Jackets came out swinging, and had a good bit of momentum in the early game even before Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll streaked into the Calgary zone on an odd man rush, before MacKenzie sent the puck back on a perfect feed to a trailing Craig Rivet, who slammed it over Kiprusoff's shoulder for the 1-0 lead, his first goal as a Jacket, and his 50th career goal.
(Attn: Sami Lepisto, now that both Upshall and Rivet have scored, consider yourself on notice.)
Unfortunately, despite carrying the play for much of the first period, the Jackets would give up two goals less than a minute apart.
The first game as Curtis Glencross dipped behind the Jackets' net, and Scottie Upshall went to take him out of the play, but Rick Nash was caught watching the hit, and not Olli Jokinen. The puck came to Jokinen, uncontested in the slot, and he first a quick wrister to tie the game.
A minute later, Jarome Iginla came up the left hand boards, fired a LONG shot from the top of the zone, and Steve Mason came out to challenge, the puck hit the top of his stick, flew straight up into the air, and both Mason and Craig Rivet were uncertain where the puck was before Rivet tried to sweep it away from the goal-line a heartbreaking second too late.
Going into the second period, Antoine Vermette would go to the net off a feed from Chris Russell and score 5 hole on Kipper, tying the game and giving the Jackets some life, but he'd go from Hero to Goat a few minutes later when he was whistled for a double minor for high sticking a few minutes later, and Calgary would convert on both minor penalties, the first a Rene Borque stuff off a cross ice feed from Jokinen, and the second a Curtis Glencross redirect of an Anton Babchuck shot from the point, putting the Jackets down 4-2 in the second period.
Matt Calvert would earn a penalty shot a few minutes later thanks to being hooked down on a breakaway, but he was unable to convert 1 on 1, and we'd go into the third period still down two goals.
In a 4 on 4 period in the third with both Rick Nash and Matt Stajan in the box, Jan Hejda would unload a bullet of a slapper that went in, cutting it to 4-3, and Vermette would have another chance to play hero, earning another penalty shot, but he'd try to go top shelf, and Kipper would get his blocker up, redirecting it just over the cross bar.
The Jackets would swarm, with both Umberger and Nash both being stopped on the doorstep, but even with the net emptied, they could not find a solution.
The Jackets unloaded 40 shots, plus two penalty shots, but nothing made it through. By contrast, Mason was beaten four times on 28 shots, but one was a pure fluke, and the other three felt more like the PK and forecheck hanging him out than a real bad effort by Mason - particularly with some of the excellent stops he DID make.
The Jackets needed tonight, and didn't get it. It's that simple.
Final Score: Flames 4 - Jackets 3.
- Craig Rivet - Rivet's unexpected offense was a nice boost. I'm not sure if he stays in for St. Louis, or if Grant Clitsome will be back in the lineup, but it'll be interesting to see how he's worked in going forward.
- Kris Russell - Despite the ups and downs of the team, Russ has 6 points in the last 7 games.
- Jake Voracek - A two assist night for Jake - he's now third on the team in scoring.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Penalty Shots / Power Plays - The opportunities were there, but the Jackets simply couldn't do anything about them.
- Antoine Vermette - It's hard to put a guy with a goal and an assist in there, particularly since he earned one of those two penalty shots as well, but the fact remains that his double minor was the game-breaker.
- PK - Speaking of that double minor, the PK looked good early, but collapsed in the second period.
All told, last night hurt a lot. Monday's game in St. Louis is going to be ugly. It seems like Western Canada is full of nothing but frustration for the Jackets this year, but at least the good news is we don't have to go back again this season.
They're going to need a big run the rest of the way to push themselves back into it. Let's hope they can rise to the occasion.