Game 72 Recap: Mercury In Retrograde

Astrology is a bunch of hooey generally used to separate people from their money, but it can be fun to mess around with. Who doesn't love a good horoscope?

With Mercury in retrograde this weekend, it's considered a time of chaos, frustration, unexpected developments, and a bad time to make plans. It's also when you tend to find things from the past returning in different forms and the keys to moving forward floating to the surface.

Yep, sounds like this game in a nutshell.

With the Flames trying to keep up with the playoff push, the Jackets were in the spoiler role once again, and the refs seemed content to let the boys play.

The Flames clearly wanted to push the Jackets back into their own zone, while Columbus responded with a physical attack to help ease the strain of back to back matches. Mikka Kiprusoff, of course, gave his team strong goaltending, while Curtis Sanford started the game against him.

After not managing much on the game's first power play, the Jackets would open the scoring when Nikita Nikitin teed up a booming shot that Kipper didn't even seem to know was coming towards him.

Jared Boll would be challenged by Guillame Desbiens in response to the goal, but from that moment, things started to get....weird.

On the ensuing sequence, Curtis Sanford would drift slightly out of position following a save, then drop to the ice in clear pain. Attempting to rise, then failing, he would require assistance from the medical staff to reach the locker room, and would later be announced as out with a lower body injury. (According to Shawn Mitchell of the Dispatch, it's an injured quadricep - not only a season ending injury, but potentially a career impacting one as well.)

Steve Mason would step in to replace Sanford after the loss in Vancouver last night, holding the crease through the first period, while the defense worked to defuse the Calgary offense and help Mason to ease into the match.

The second period, however, would not go quite so smoothly. Pushed back from the start by the Flames, the Jackets would spend almost the entire period in their own end, mustering just three shots on net. Fortunately, Mason would respond with some exceptional saves against a flurry of rubber, but it came at a clear cost. Attempting to take advantage of the weakened goaltending situation, the Flames took several liberties with the goaltender that went un-called, including a Jarome Iginla high stick to Mason's mask and a blatant charge by Olli Jokinen when he exaggerated a bump from Colton Gillies. Worse, Mason would stay on the ice for a long minute after the Jokinen hit, bringing a long moment of fear to the Columbus fanbase - he may not be the most consistent player, but right now he's literally all we have.

With the game getting out of hand, Jared Boll made the decision to respond by putting his elbow up as he checked Alex Tanguay along the boards, hitting him in the side of the head. Tanguay would head to the locker room and Boll to the penalty box, though fortunately Tanguay would later return to the game.

Surviving after being outshot 16-3, one would hope the Jackets would get their offense back in gear, but the Flames would put pressure on early thanks to a power play when Vinny Prospal put the puck over the glass, though former Jacket Curtis Glencross would even up the play with a slashing call halfway through the PK.

News would go from bad to worse during the 4 on 4 when James Wisniewski would attempt to block a shot, only to see it ride up his sitck and strike him in the jaw. Bleeding and clearly losing a few teeth, Wisniewski would head to the locker room and would not return, leaving the Jackets down another key player.

Just after the penalties expired, Derek Dorsett would battle for the puck with Glencross in open ice when Glencross delivered a brutal high stick to the side of his face. Dorsett collapsed to the ice in obvious pain as play was called, yet somehow the referees decided to give matching penalties, calling the Columbus forward for interference. Head coach Todd Richards was clearly enraged by the decision, demanding explanations from referee Mike Leggo, and insult would be added to injury when Glencross would set up the tying goal a few seconds after leaving the penalty box, going behind the net and sending the puck up to Matt Stajan at the side of the crease, where he squeaked a puck through Mason as the goaltender attempted to get into position.

After giving up the tying goal, news went into "What NOW?" territory when Nikita Nikitin would leave the ice in obvious difficulty after taking a puck off the side of the leg, while Calgary would temporarily lose the services of Blake Comeau.

Fortunately, the Jackets would find more offense due to Ryan Johansen, Vinny Prospal, and Cam Atkinson pushing the play, while Derick Brassard and Rick Nash both made serious missteps with the puck in prime scoring areas - Brassard hesitating and trying to pass back on a breakaway instead of simply firing, Nash behaving quite lacksadasically around the net instead of trying to get aggressive or elevating the puck against a goaltender who is known for making saves along the ice.

Finally, time would run down on regulation, securing a point for the causes of playoff chases and sheer pride, and both teams would see a few chances in OT, but nothing concrete emerged, so it was off to the shootout - Columbus' first since their SO loss to Detroit in January.

Columbus being given the chance to shoot first meant that Todd Richards would open with Rick Nash, but the Captain would seem to lose control of the puck as he went to the net, sending it well wide without any risk of threatening to score.

Alex Tanguay would shoot first for the Flames, but Mason would come up with a low pad stop, while Mark Letestu would attempt to score glove side and be denied.

Olli Jokinen would get shut down by Mason's glove, and Jack Johnson would attempt to end the game, beating Kiprusoff but shooting too high to catch the open net.

With Curtis Glencross given the chance to seal the game, it would have been sadly appropriate for the winger to score, but Mason would make another sliding stop to send the game into extra shooters.

Looking for offensive spark, coach Richards would call upon Cam Atkinson for his first ever NHL shootout attempt, and the offensive dynamo would show exactly why fans should be excited for his future in Columbus by dekeing Kiprusoff completely out of position before reversing the puck and hammering it home.

Steve Mason would be called on for one more stop, this time shutting down Jarome Iginla, and the Jackets would finally gather up a win despite all the frustrations, strangeness, and pain.

Final Score - Jackets 2 - Flames 1 (SO)

Standard Bearers:

  • Steve Mason - Coming in unexpectedly and being asked to protect a fragile lead against a desperate Calgary offense, Mason made 28 stops plus shutting down four different shooters one on one. A hell of a show, and a well earned victory.
  • Cam Atkinson - Great shootout goal plus constantly hustling all night long - his effort was obvious, and great to see rewarded.
  • Nikita Nikitin - Though he gave us a scare, it was good to see him return from the apparent injury and skate for over 28 minutes. (Oh, and the small matter of yet another goal vs. the Flames - he seems to really have Kipper's number!)
  • Ryan Johansen - Elevated to the third line C position in regulation and taking several spins in OT, he had some good setups and seems to be doing quite well at his "natural" position. Let's hope we see more of that.

Bottom Of The Barrel:

  • Rick Nash - Our captain, our captain....still slumping. Pointless in six games, he managed all of one shot on goal, while making a number of serious offensive miscues that culminated in his busted shootout attempt. Given that he's gone cold since his "I love Columbus, but I still want traded" press conference...it's hard not to think that the divide between Nash and the front office is affecting his play.
  • Refs - My god, what was this? Mason gets slashed, run, slammed, and sticked, Dorsett gets drilled, elbows a-flying, and the officials just let all this happen? Disgraceful. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up seeing several supplemental discipline calls coming out of his game from Shanahan.
  • Injuries - When you hear about players needing MRIs, stitches, and visits to "The face doctor" after the game....that's a bad scene, to say the least. Here's hoping that Sanford and Wiz will be able to recover quickly.

The Jackets will fly home tonight, and take on the Chicago Blackhawks here at Nationwide on Tuesday. That'd be the same Blackhawks who annihilated the Capitals today and have beaten Columbus by three or more goals in each meeting this season.

....yeah, this will end well.

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