Game 54 Recap: Sloppy, Beauty, Ugly, Almost

This game can be divided into four distinct parts:

Part One: The first ten minutes of the opening period were horrific from a Jackets perspective. They were as sloppy as they've been all season, and were punished with a pair of goals against.

Part Two: In the second period, the Stars were undisciplined and the Jackets were able to pot a pair of powerplay goals to cut the lead to one. The Jackets looked very, very composed while up a man. Placing Derick Brassard on the point paid real dividends.

Part Three: The bulk of the third period was ugly hockey. The Stars were content to dump, and the Jackets couldn't establish possession.

Part Four: With the goalie pulled, the Jackets pushed, and pushed and pushed some more. They couldn't beat Kari Lehtonen, and Jamie Benn scored an empty netter to seal the deal.

EDIT: Shortly after the game, it was announced that Marc Methot had suffered a broken jaw, and Jared Boll suffered a broken foot during the game. In a season such as this, none of us should be surprised, but nonetheless this is another blow to a team that is already on the ground, beaten to a pulp.

Please read on for the full story.

First Period

To say that the Jackets didn't get the start they wanted would be a massive understatement. After a handful of defensive zone turnovers and overall ugly play in their zone, the Stars took advantage and beat Curtis Sanford just 1:35 into the game.

1-0 Stars: Jamie Benn (Stephane Robidas, Steve Ott)

The good thing for the Jackets was that they didn't hang their heads after giving up the early goal. The second line of Jeff Carter, Vinny Prospal and Colton Gillies was sent out and applied good pressure, coming up with a pair of scoring chances.

Moments later, Jared Boll turned the puck over in the offensive zone. This translated into a rush the other way by the Stars, culminating in a shot from the point by Sheldon Souray. Boll made it back in time to block Souray's shot, but the winger was visibly aching after doing so. I think Souray is a fantastic story. He was a borderline reclamation project, and has ressurrected his career with the Stars. His shot is still a weapon that instills fear into opponents.

Things continued to go south for the Jackets when at the 4:21 mark, the Stars struck again. This one was ugly. Tomas Vincour received a pass from Mike Ribeiro as he skated into the Jackets' zone. He fired a wrister high, striking Marc Methot in the jaw. The puck dropped to the ice, where Alex Goligoski was on the door step to tap the puck into the net.

2-0 Stars: Alex Goligoski (Tomas Vincour, Mike Ribeiro)

Once again the Carter line came out flying after the goal against. The Carter/Prospal pairing has shown some chemistry of late, and bodes well for the future if Carter remains with the team.

At 6:32 of the period, Jared Boll was whistled for boarding, giving the Stars the first powerplay of the game. The Jackets and their 30th-ranked penalty kill stood strong (or maybe weathered the storm?) and the score remained 2-0 Dallas.

Derek MacKenzie had a decent chance a few minutes later when he was sent in on a partial break after receiving the puck from linemate Ryan Russell. Stars starter Kari Lehtonen made the save however. There has been some talk of MacKenzie getting moved at the deadline due to his impending free agency status. It seems that day by day, I am less in favor of the "blow-it-up" option. MacKenzie has been the perfect fourth line center- he brings constant, endless energy and forechecking, and has the ability to provide occassional offense. He also has the best +/- on a team that should be all in the negative column. At this point I'd say he's worth more to the Jackets than anything they could get for him in a trade.

The Stars owned the first half of the period, but the Jackets woke up and started to change the momentum of the game in the second half. Carter had a pair of great chances himself, looking very, very dangerous at times. The second line right wing spot seemed to alternate between Gillies and Derek Dorsett, with Dorsett looking quite comfortable on the line, fighting for the puck in the corners and freeing it up for his talented linemates. This is a line I'd love to see a lot more of down the line.

At 19:05, rookie David Savard was sent off for slashing. From my angle it diidn't look half as bad as Vernon Fiddler made it out to be. I mean, the poor kid looked like he was shot in the mouth. Regardless, the Jackets held out for the remainder of the period without allowing a powerplay goal.

End of the first period, 2-0 Stars.

Second Period

The period began with the word that Methot's night was over after taking the puck to the jaw earlier. It's a shame really, with James Wisniewski and Nikita Nikitin close to returning. Here's hoping that Methot makes a quick recovery.

The Jackets were tasked with killing off the balance of Savard's penalty to start the middle frame. Just as Savard stepped back on to the ice, the Stars went up by three. With Loui Eriksson providing the screen, Stephane Robidas blast a one-time point shot past Sanford.

3-0 Stars: Stephane Robidas (Mike Ribeiro, Alex Goligoski)

The Jackets seemed to fall apart after that goal. Their play in all three zones- especially the defensive zone, where they were spending a ton of time-was sloppy, at best. The top line of R.J. Umberger, Rick Nash and Derick Brassard made an appearance with about 14 minutes left. Umberger beat four of five Stars en-route to the Dallas zone before losing the puck, while Nash forced Lehtonen to freeze the puck after getting a hard wrister on-net.

Right before the TV timeout, the Stars were whistled for a penalty when Souray received a roughing call. Fresh off signing his new deal with the Jackets, Prospal scored his first goal in 13 games to cut the lead to 3-1. This was a nice one, too. Brassard was at the right point. He slid the puck to the opposite point where Fedor Tyutin was stationed. Tyutin slap-passed the puck to the right side of the net, where Vinny positioned his stick perfectly for the redirect.

3-1 Stars: Vinny Prospal (Fedor Tyutin, Derick Brassard)

Just seconds after the faceoff, the Jackets went right back to work, with Rick Nash storming the net, forcing Lehtonen to make another tough save. Along the way, Vernon Fiddler supplied a hook, and was caught by the refs. It's a shame that the Jackets couldn't score on that powerplay, because they looked damned good. It was some of the best puck movement I'd seen from them all season, led by Brassard directing traffic at the point. Jeff Carter was again dangerous, as was Nash. This was what we all expected from the Jackets this season.

The parade to the box continued just seconds later for the Stars, when Philip Larsen was sent off for holding the stick. While up a man, the Jackets scored another beauty. Nash and Brassard pulled off a tic-tac-toe play (through traffic I might add) which resulted in Nash firing a wrister past Lehtonen to pull within one.

3-2 Stars: Rick Nash (Derick Brassard, Fedor Tyutin)

The run of undisciplined play by the Stars allowed the Jackets to make it a game. Once back to five-on-five, the Jackets maintained pressure, but the Stars had a handful of chances to keep things even until the end of the period.

End of the second period, 3-2 Stars.

Third Period

The period started off with both teams clogging up the neutral zone, refusing the other team the ability to gain the offensive zone. The Jackets' top line finally broke through, with Umberger dishing the puck off to a streaking Brassard at the Dallas line. Brass evaded a check, and fired a pass back to Umberger in the slot. A Stars defender got a stick in the lane to disrupt the pass, but it was another example of Brassard's continued run of confident, skilled play.

With 7:11 left on the clock, Vinny Prospal showed us again why he's so valuable to this team, as a person. The puck went into the Jackets bench off a faceoff, and the camera caught him turning around a flipping a puck to a young fella behind the bench. Souvenir pucks are often tossed over the glass, but this is usually during player of the game ceremonies or in warmup. This move was just so...Vinny.

At the 14:10 mark, Jeff Carter went off for tripping. The Stars were unable to score, but they were the better team for the third period. They weren't dominating the Jackets, but they did fall into a "content to clear" mode that prevented the Jackets from getting anything going.

With about 90 seconds left in the game, Sanford was pulled for the extra attacker. The Jackets sent out a unit of Nash, Carter, Umberger, Prospal, Brassard and Tyutin. The pace was furious as the Jackets continued to pepper Lehtonen but they couldn't get a puck past him. With seconds left, Jamie Benn scored an empty netter to seal the deal.

4-2 Stars: Jamie Benn (Unassisted)

Final Score: 4-2 Stars.

Standard Bearers:

  • Derick Brassard had another great game. I am 100% on the "keep Brass" bandwagon. He's playing with a ton of confidence, and we all know how difficult it is to hang on to skilled centermen in the this league.
  • Jame Benn is a beast, even though he's got a turkey neck.
  • Vinny was being Vinny tonight, and it was great to see him score a goal after signing his extension.
  • Jeff Carter, though he didn't score, looked dangerous again. Proving he wants to be here and contribute, or showcasing himself for a trade?

Bottom of the Barrel

  • Steve Ott, 'cause he's a douchebag.
  • The first ten minutes of the game killed the Jackets- their overall play was pathetic and sloppy. They donated two goals to Dallas, and if they had even just prevented half of the turnovers in that span we could be looking at a different result.
  • What's going on with Umby? He had one decent rush this game, but held on to the puck for too long. He was virtually invisible for most of this season game.

The Jackets didn't look good this game, outside of some time on the powerplay in the middle period. They'll have a chance to regroup before heading to Minnesota to play the Wild on Saturday.

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