Game 43 Recap: Jackets Tame the Sand Puppies

The Jackets put forth one of their most complete efforts of the season tonight, defeating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3. Though they gave up three goals, they were the dominant team for most of the game.

Tonight was a night of firsts, as two rookies scored their first NHL goals. Captain Nash and his new center also chipped in goals, as the Jackets defeated the Coyotes 4-3.

Read on to see the whole story.

First Period

The Jackets took to this ice with their top line of RIck Nash, Derick Brassard and Vinny Prospal. Near the end of the shift, Brassard took a clearing pass to the ankle, but walked it off in the tunnel behind the bench.

With fans still making their way to their seat, and the buliding almost dead quiet, Coyotes defender Adrian Aucoin wired a one-timer from the blueline past Columbus starter Curtis Sanford. It seemed as though at first that some of the players on the ice didn't realize the puck had gone in, but sure enough, the Coyotes had the lead.

1-0 Coyotes: Adrian Aucoin (Lauri Korpikoski, Boyd Gordon)

The Jackets showed reslience after the goal, with a handful of high-energy shifts and hard work along the boards. The fourth line of Derek MacKenzie, Dane Byers and Jared Boll were particularly effective, keeping the Coyotes hemmed in their own zone.

The Jackets first real chance of the game materialized after Antoine Vermette made a great play at the Phoenix blueline to keep the puck onside, feeding a streaking Derek Dorsett. Dorsett put a shot on net, but goaltender Jason LaBarbera stood tall.

At the 5:32 mark, defenseman Aaron Johnson took a pass from Vermette and took off up the right wing. He beat one defender and slid the puck toward the goal mouth, where rookie Tomas Kubalik tipped the puck past LaBarbera for his first NHL goal. It was a perfect tip-Kubalik's stick was on the ice, and he applied just the right amount of "flick" for the puck to cross the line.

1-1: Tomas Kubalik (Aaron Johnson, Antoine Vermette)

I feel like I need to add this to the recap: I really like Aaron Johnson's offensive ability. When he's in the lineup, he's making things happen with the puck. He's a free agent at the end of the season, but I'd love it if he were brought back next season to play the exact same role- seventh defenseman with offensive ability.

At this point of the game you felt as though the Jackets were playing with more confidence. Sanford was making the saves, the bottom six players were out there stifling the opposition and supply a ton of energy, and the top line was creating plays.

One of those plays, which happened at the 7:09 mark, was a Rick Nash Special. David Savard fed him the puck from the point, and Nash carried it to the slot. He set his feet and wired a hard wrister past LaBarbera to take the lead.

2-1 Jackets: Rick Nash (David Savard, Derick Brassard)

Offered without comment: Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

At 8:45 Shane Doan committed the first penalty of the game, a holding call. The Jackets had a few great chances, but were unable to beat the goalie.

The Coyotes had played the night before, and usually the fatigue from playing on back-to-back nights starts to become evident in the third period, but on this night the Coyotes looked a step behind in the first period.

The Jackets dominated possession for the remainder of the period, keeping LaBarbera busy. This was easily one of the most complete periods the Jackets have played this season, which is surprising given they are without Jeff Carter, James WIsniewski, Kristian Huselius, R.J. Umberger, Mark Letestu or Radek Martinek.

End of the first, 2-1 Jackets.

Second Period

The Jackets started the second very much the way they ended the second- by being the more dominant of the two squads. The puck didn't leave the Phoenix zone for essentially the first two minutes, and at 1:52 of the period after a hard-working shift by the Samuel Pahlsson, Ryan Russell and Derek Dorsett line the Jackets were rewarded.

After putting a shot on net, the line continued to work hard around the net with Russell picking the puck up behind the net, tucking it into the net with a wraparound.

3-1 Jackets: Ryan Russell (Samuel Pahlsson, Derek Dorsett)

The goal was the first of his career for Russell. I must admit, it was a little strange watching him celebrate- I was reminded of course of his twin brother Kris, who had scored a handful of goals in a Columbus sweater.

Speaking of strange- I had to give my head a shake at one point, when Columbus broadcaster Jeff Rimer announced "Klesla to Brule".

Rostislav Klesla and Gilbert Brule, along with Ray Whitney and Raffi Torres make up the quartet of former Jackets playing for the Coyotes. Phoenix also employs Columbus' first ever head coach, Dave King, as a development coach.

The Jackets continued to outplay the Coyotes, but Phoenix did come up with a solid scoring chance, at about the eight minute mark the puck was wired on the Columbus net, but Sanford came up with a huge glove save.

At the 11:12 mark, the Coyotes brought the house, sending four players into the Columbus zone. The puck made its way to the front of the net, redirecting off the skate of Lauri Korpikoski. There was no kicking motion, and after a brief review in Toronto the referee indicated a good goal.

3-2 Jackets: Lauri Korpikoski (Radim Vrbata, Oliver Ekman-Larsson)

Prior to the game, I was excited to see how rookies Ryan Johansen and Kubalik would look as the wingers flanking Antoine Vermette on the second line. Tonight, they didn't disappoint. They were creative, and in the case of Kubalik, looked like a seasoned veteran at times.

The Coyotes' second goal gave them some life, and they started to shift the balance in their favor. At the 15:50 mark, the Coyotes went to the powerplay when Dorsett was sent off for boarding.

Phoenix was unable to solve Sanford, but the Jackets were able to regain their two goal lead, off the stick of Derick Brassard. He wired a shot from the slot past LaBarbera at the 18:36 mark.

4-2 Jackets: Derick Brassard (Fedor Tyutin, Derick Brassard)

End of the second period, 4-2 Jackets.

Third Period

The first few minutes of the third period saw the team trade chances back and forth, with neither team able to solve the opposition goaltender.

The period was fast-paced, and before we knew it, there was only ten minutes left in regulation. The play continued to shift back and forth, and at 8:48, the Coyotes struck.

Radim Vrbata was hit with a stretch pass at the Columbus blueline, and skated in on Sanford, firing a shot past the goaltender to cut the lead to one goal.

4-3 Jackets: Radim Vrbata (Lauri Korpikoski)

After the goal, the teams returned to their back-and-forth ways, with neither team able to change the score.

With very little whistles, time flew by. The Coyotes pulled LaBarbera with 50 seconds left, and although there were some tense moments for Columbus fans, the Jackets held on for the victory.

FInal Score: 4-3 Jackets.

Standard Bearers:

- Tomas Kubalik and Ryan Russell each scored their first goals of their NHL careers. Congrats to both of these young players.

- Though they strayed a bit in the third period, give the whole team props for a solid effort.

- Derick Brassard continues to impress. Here's hoping that his move to the top line is one of the "tweaks" that Todd Richards will implement on a permanent basis.

Bottom of the Barrel:

- I don't feel like filling this section out tonight, so I won't.

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