There are really only three pivotal moments that occurred in the 60 minutes of last night's game.
Sadly, all of them went the Stars' way.
Despite preparing for the Stars' intensity, the Jackets would be the ones on the defensive early, made worse when they went to the PK just before the 4:30 mark of the first period when Sami Lepisto went to the box for interference.
Dallas' power play went to work, and it would be Brad Richards making a key play to hold the puck in the zone at the blue line, floating across from center, to right, and back to the top of the zone before firing in on goal, and Steve Ott was able to tip the puck past Mathieu Garon for the early lead.
The next pivotal moment came a few minutes later, when Kris Russell battled with Tom Wandell for the puck in his own zone. Antoine Vermette came up behind Wandell, attempting to knock him off the puck, but the blow knocked both Wandell and Russell to the ice, and Russell's leg twisted awkwardly, as you can see from the photo.
Russell pulled himself off the ice on two hands and one leg, unable to put any weight on his injured foot, and the team has since announced that his ankle is broken - bad, but actually not as bad as a tear or sprain. It's a season ending injury, but one that can be rehabbed fairly simply, and should leave him ready and able in time for training camp.
Forced down to five defensemen in the absence of Anton Stralman, the Jackets still managed to put up 10 shots against Kari Lehtonen before the end of the first period (helped by a pair of power play opportunities), and kept the game a one goal contest until late in the third period, when the final turn of bad luck presented itself.
With a little over 5 minutes left in the game, Sammy Pahlsson and Derek Dorsett broke into the Dallas zone, and Pahlsson fired a shot on net that appeared to rebound off Loui Eriksson, off Lehtonen's shoulder, and past Derek Dorsett into the net.
However, the referee immediately waved it off, declaring that Dorsett had interfered with Lehtonen, and sent Dorsett to the penalty box for goaltender interference to boot. Having watched the replay on Fox Sports Ohio, it appeared to me that Dorsett did make some contact with Eriksson, but neither Dorsett nor Eriksson made contact with Lehtonen before the puck went into the net. It could be argued that Dorsett pushed Eriksson into Lehtonen, but it looked more like the two were jockeying for position than a deliberate attempt to me.
Regardless, the waived off goal not only deflated the Jackets, but cost valuable time as they had to kill off the penalty before they could attempt to attack again.
With less than a minute left, Mathieu Garon made his way to the bench, and Scottie Upshall attempted to beat the entire Dallas defense singlehandedly. It failed spectacularly, as Eriksson was able to chip the puck away from him and fire it down the ice and into the empty net.
Scott Arniel kept Garon on the bench in an attempt to inspire his team. It inspired Jakub Voracek to try to do the exact same thing, but this time it would be Brendan Morrow relieving him of the puck and tossing it into the net for his trouble.
The Jackets went from January 6th to mid-March without being shut out. Since that time they've been shut out four times in 10 games. Some of that comes down to facing teams fighting for their playoff lives, but this game was in reach for far too long. They simply failed to do anything to seize it, and the one moment where it seemed like they finally found a spark was cast away by forces outside their control.
Despite that, I was actually impressed with Garon and the PK - after letting one goal through, they killed off 6 more Dallas power plays, and Garon made some good saves to keep the team in it, despite their offensive failings. (Does anyone else feel a moment of bemusement that there was a disputed goal in yet another game against Dallas, and Derek Dorsett was involved each time?)
Even before his turnover leading to the final exclamation point, I was very unimpressed by Jakub Voracek tonight. I'm not really bothering to separate the wheat from the chaff on a night where nothing seemed to go right, but Jake had at least three odd man rushes or breaks around the defense where he made inexplicable passes (or worse, simply dropped the puck into open ice), rather than taking shots on net. I can't say he would have absolutely scored, but you have to think that a shot that might have generated a rebound would have a lot more potential than a pass that sails wide or gets intercepted without ever approaching the goal.
The loss of Kris Russell is a painful note to a frustrating game, and leaves the team missing yet another key player as they struggle to finish the season without further insult or incident. If Anton Stralman continues to struggle with illness, it would likely mean another callup from Springfield. We'll likely know more tomorrow - I would think that if the team does make the decision to bring up another d-man, they'll want to give him a chance to practice with the team on Thursday before going into the meat grinder.
The Jackets will return to Columbus, briefly, before flying to Nashville on Friday for their final road game. The puck drops at 8:00pm