With the exception of a particularly gruesome subplot after the warm up skate, the first 20 minutes of last night's meeting between the Oilers and Blue Jackets promised little good for fans in Columbus.
As more than a few people made the decision to flip the channel (or take to the internet to criticize the team and the fans), however, something happened down in the locker room. Who knows what was said or what mental switch got flipped, but the end results would soon be obvious.
For the Oilers, the night began on a very scary note when 2010 1st overall pick Taylor Hall made a mis-step during warmups and wiped out on the ice. Knocking over one teammate, Hall skidded out of control towards Corey Potter, who tried to hop out of the way. The attempt failed, and Potter ended up cutting Hall across the forehead with his skate.
Hall would be treated on site by a combination of the on-site medical staff and Oilers team doctors, receiving 30 stitches. Hall is part of the generation who normally wears a visored helmet for game action, but he typically does not put one on for warmups. Had he been wearing all of his gear, it's quite possible the injury would have been avoided. As it was, that was the end of the evening for the young star, as the team would shut him down for the night as a precautionary measure.
Despite missing their top three stars, the Oilers would start the game in solid fashion in front of netminder Devan Dubnyk, taking an early lead when Anton Lander took advantage of a defensive breakdown to go one on one with Curtis Sanford. The Swedish forward slipped through the neutral zone, danced around Derick Brassard, and slipped the puck around Sanford's attempted poke check before firing into the emptied net before the Sandman could recover.
Making matters worse, Edmonton would go up by two when Ben Eager caught a rebound off the end boards and quickly snapped a shot past Sanford within minutes of the Lander goal. Interim head coach Todd Richards made the decision to take his timeout in the wake of the play, giving the team a collective wake-up call.
Despite Richards' attempt to settle the bench, the Jackets would be outshot 9-6 in the first period, and signs of frustration were clear when Derek Dorsett tried to get Theo Peckham to engage with him in the final minute. Peckham jawed back but would not drop his gloves, and Dorsett was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct to end the period.
Facing yet another 2-0 deficit (a gap the Jackets had yet to recover from this season) and a fairly...questionable...penalty putting them on the kill to start the second period, the team apparently decided to have a true gut check moment, and came out firing.
Appropriately, it would be the Jackets' youth who pulled them back into the game, with Ryan Johansen taking the puck out of his own zone, passing off to Antoine Vermette, and then collecting a return pass to walk in and score on a lightning quick 5-hole shot through Dubnyk's pads.
Despite Edmonton getting another power play after Johansen was called for a trip on the Oilers' Jordan Petry, Columbus was actually in control for much of the period, with an obvious re-commitment to defense from all four lines, but particularly lead by Dorsett and Derek Mackenzie.
The hard work would pay off when Theo Peckham took a cheap shot at Dorsett with just under a minute to go in the period, and Derick Brassard cashed in with a buzzer beater on the power play. Nikita Nikitin would shoot in and Brass would take one chance, catch his own rebound, and loft the puck over Dubnyk and into the net with just .08 seconds left in the period.
With a brand new game in the third period, newcomer Colton Gillies put his stamp on things early, fighting his way through the Oilers forecheck and making a perfect centering pass for D-Mac, who fired it home to put the Jackets ahead for the first time in the game.
The Jackets held the lead with confidence, not allowing Edmonton to push the pace of play or otherwise turn their superior foot speed into an advantage. As time ticked down, it appeared that Edmonton might get a final power play as Devan Dubnyk raced to the bench for an extra skater, but the referees clarified that it was in fact Edmonton being called for too many men on the ice after Ales Hemsky hopped over the boards before Dubnyk actually reached the bench.
Despite one last near-miss for Edmonton, Derek Dorsett would cap off an all around strong game with an empty netter, but not before he actually missed on his first shot and had to take a second attempt.
Despite getting a bit of good natured ribbing from his teammates on the bench, Dorsett was all smiles as the final seconds ticked down, and the Jackets registered their first victory this season after falling behind by two goals.
Final Score: Jackets 4 - Oilers 2
- Derick Brassard - In addition to his timeply goal, Brass racked up four shots and made some solid checking plays. He got left alone on the Lander goal, but that was more on the D than on him.
- Derek Dorsett - The empty netter was the perfect cap to a night where #15 was setting the tone for his teammates, refusing to back down to anyone.
- Derek MacKenzie - A great and timely goal. Isn't it nice to talk about our guys putting up goals in the dying seconds / opening minutes instead of getting scored on?
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Fedor Tyutin / Nikita Nikitin - They recovered as the game went on, but they both got burned early by the Oilers' speed and a couple of bad moments out of position.
- David Savard - Though he didn't have a terrible game, he didn't seem to be as comfortable tonight.
- Tomas Kubalik - A late boarding penalty could have been disastrous, but the team bailed him out. That's his third boarding call in the last four games. He needs to seriously look at how he is hitting guys around the boards and adjust his game accordingly.
All in all, a fantastic comeback effort and the Todd Richards era is back to a .500 record with the victory. The Jackets will take on Nashville at home Thursday night, then start their long road trip through much of January and February up in Detroit on Saturday.