Game 47 Recap: Frustrating, but Stil Fight In The Dog

With the Jackets looking to shake off the frustration of their first shutout loss of the year against the Predators, they started their longest road trip of the year in Joe Louis Arena for another Central Division matchup.

With the Red Wings currently dominating at home, a win was a tall order, but the depleted Blue Jackets squad gave it their best shot.

The Jackets dressed Grant Clitsome tonight, while Brett Lebda spent his first night back in the NHL as a healthy scratch in the press box while he tries to get a feel for his new club.

With Jimmy Howard and Curtis Sanford facing off in net, the Jackets would get on the board early when Aaron Johnson forced a neutral zone turnover before passing to Derek Dorsett. DD would break in and get a good shot on Jimmy Howard, and the rebound bounced right to Ryan Russell, who fired it home for his second NHL goal.

Unfortunately, the Wings would come right back to score when Niklas Kronwall fought off several Jackets for a loose puck and fired a fairly weak shot that bounced past Sanford to tie the game.

Despite Detroit taking a bit of a rally after the goal, the Jackets settled down in front of their netminder and held on through the end of the period, taking a tie game into the second.

Neither side found an advantage until Tomas Holmstrom was sent to the box for a hook, and Nikita Nikitin would cash in during the final 30 seconds of the penalty, with Antoine Vermette winning the draw and providing a clean feed to the Russian d-man before setting a screen in front of Howard. Nikitin found a lane and unleashed a slick wrister that Howard had no chance to stop, putting the Jackets back out in front, but Detroit would respond on a power play of their own, with Niklas Lidstrom getting a little luck when he managed to step in front of a Samuel Pahlsson clearing attempt, gather the puck at the blue line, and fire a long slapper that bounced off the notoriously active boards of the Joe, hit Curtis Sanford in the backside, and bounced into the goal.

Despite Detroit swarming for 25 shots to the Jackets' 15 with ten minutes left in regulation, the game was still tied up at two when things took a scary turn - and not just because Columbus was on the PK.

Nikita Nikitin attempted to go for a loose puck behind the Columbus net when he was given a shove into the boards by Henrik Zetterberg, who took his hand off his stick to push the Columbus defender in the back. The move likely would have been a boarding penalty regardless, but Nikitin appeared to be having some issues with his balance at the moment of the shove, and he fell awkwardly into the boards, his left leg taking the brunt of the impact. Unable to put weight on the leg, Nikitin was in obvious pain as he was escorted off the ice by the Blue Jackets' training staff, and as of right now we have no updates on his condition. It seems likely that the d-man suffered a major leg injury, with a broken leg being a real concern.

Zetterberg was given a 5 minute major for boarding and game misconduct, and was ejected from the game per Rule 41.3.

Unfortunately, with the Jackets' top PP point men (and a couple of their major forwards) on the shelf, the major penalty would pass with Columbus unable to take advantage, and the game would head to OT.

For a heartbeat, it appeared that Rick Nash might have put an end to the Wings' streak when he fired a hard shot that Howard lost track of, but the goaltender managed to get his glove on the puck before it could cross the line. Detroit would have a similar near miss when Valtteri Filppula took a shot that got past Sanford, but the puck hit the post and caromed into the corner.

Columbus harried Detroit for much of the OT, keeping the puck moving and taking several attempts that were blocked or went wide, but had one glorious late chance when Marc Methot carried the puck deep into the zone, faked a shot and delivered a perfect pass to Pahlsson at the goal mouth, but Howard was able to get his stick down just in time.

With no solutions in OT, this game went to a shootout, but Curtis Sanford was on his game, stopping Pavel Datsyuk, while Rick Nash lost the puck on his attempt.

Sanford would deliver another save when Jiri Hudler attempted to go top shelf, and Todd Richards would send out Derek Dorsett to take an attempt for the Jackets. #15 carried the puck in deep and eventually tried a stuff move at the side of the net, but Howard was able to stay with the shooter and kept the puck out.

Todd Bertuzzi would miss wide, and Howard would stop Derick Brassard, sending the game to extra shooters. Unfortunately, Filppula would convert, while Ryan Johansen was unable to keep the Jackets alive, and the Red Wings would extend their home streak to 16 in a row, while the Jackets were left with one point, another severe injury, and the knowledge that they played well enough to win, but couldn't put the game away when given the chances.

Final Score: Red Wings 3 - Jackets 2 (SO)

Standard Bearers:

  • Nikita Nikitin - Even if he hadn't been injured, he was having a notably strong game tonight. His goal on the power play was a beautiful thing. Our hopes and prayers go to him tonight.
  • Curtis Sanford - He let in one bad goal, and one really unlucky goal. He also stopped 29 Detroit shots on the night, plus three of four shootout attempts, including a stone cold robbery of one of the best forwards in the NHL.
  • Antoine Vermette - Very solid game, including some key faceoff wins.
  • Compete Level - I think a lot of fans expected this team to fold after Detroit tied the game in the first and second periods, and certainly after the Nikitin injury, but they kept coming back. Their OT period, despite going scoreless, might have been one of the best this season. That was very, very good to see, and perhaps bodes well for the team under Todd Richards for the rest of this season.

Bottom Of The Barrel:

  • Injuries - Because, really, what the Christ. Someone smudge the locker room with sage, wave a chicken over the trainer's bench, and kill a black goat at midnight under a full moon at center ice, please?
  • Power Play - Admittedly, the Nikitin goal was a good example of the PP working, but still, you had a 3:30 major after the 4 on 4 expired and could not do anything with it? Frustrating. That was the game-changer right there.
  • Pass-happiness - The Jackets as a whole had several odd man or offensive zone possessions where it felt like the team had a good scoring opportunity, but chose to pass off or try to move the puck back to the blue line instead of hammering it on net. The Jackets needed to be putting shots on Howard, who really didn't seem 100% tonight, and they really didn't get that going.

Things go from the frying pan to the fire for this busted up team, as they head to Nashville for a matchup against the Predators on Monday night. Look for Brett Lebda to make his debut, and I wouldn't be shocked if we see another callup from Springfield if Nikitin's injury is as bad as it looked.

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