Game 78 Recap: Jackets Deep Six the Panthers

Mar. 30, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets players celebrate after defenseman Nikita Nikitin (not pictured) scored a goal during the second period against the Florida Panthers at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

It's a rare treat for a Southeast division team like the Florida Panthers to make a visit to Nationwide Arena. The Panthers are primed to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade, but the Jackets were out to spoil the fun.

Backed by two goal performances by Nikita Nikitin and R.J. Umberger, and strong play between the pipes by Allen York, the Jackets went on to defeat the visiting Cats by a score of 4-1.

After the jump you'll find the full breakdown.

First Period

Led by starting goaltender Allen York the Jackets took to the ice against the Florida Panthers, an opponent that rarely sees Nationwide Arena ice. The first three minutes of the game was played at a high tempo, with each team making their presence felt in the opposition zone.

Shortly after play resumed following an icing whistle, the recently-formed line of Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger and Cam Atkinson went to work. Umberger carried the puck up the right wing, firing the puck cross-ice to Brassard. Brassard immediatly passed the puck back to Umberger, who made no mistake firing the puck past Jose Theodore.

1-0 Jacklets: R.J. Umberger (Derick Brassard, Cam Atkinson)

It's great to see Umby finishing the season on a high note. This season has been disappointing for every player on the team, but it was especially so for him. There was some chatter about he being trade bait at the trade deadline in February, but he was retained. He brings so much more than offense to the team, and will be a key cog going forward.

At 7:28 the Jackets were tasked with killing off a Mark Letestu tripping penalty. They were ultimately successful, buoyed by back-to-back shot blocks by the defensive pairing of Aaron Johnson and John Moore. Johnson bounced right back to his feet, but Moore was in some pain after taking the puck off the boot. Moore would come back for the start of the second period.

Midway through the period the Jackets got into some penalty trouble. First Atkinson committed an interference penalty, and that was followed up by a Jack Johnson roughing call 20 seconds later. The kill was successful, led by York and the defenders. The Panthers had their chances, but couldn't tie the game.

The Jackets set the pace for most of the remaining time in the period, but the Panthers held the shot advantage at 15-6 by the time the horn sounded.

End of the first period, 1-0 Jackets.

Second Period

The middle period began with a decidely more physical tone. Though the Panthers outshot the Jackets in the first period, the Jackets were winning most of hte battles and were overall the more physical squad. The Panthers obviously discussed this fact during the intermission- you know a team coached by Kevin Dineern is going to put an emphasis on the physical side of the game.

The Jackets' fourth line put forth a great shift early in the period. They were hitting everything in sight, as usual, but were also applying offensive pressure. Colton Gillies had a particularly good scoring chance, winning the puck along the boards, rounding behind the net, then pulling a Nashesque spin move to fire the puck on net.

At the 9:13 mark, the Jackets got their first crack at a powerplay when Erik Gudbranson was called for delay-of-game after shooting the puck over the glass. Atkinson and Umberger were buzzing, but the door remain closed.

Just seconds after the penalty expired, the Jackets were given another chance on the man advantage when the Panthers were called for far too much man on ice. It took no time at all for the Jackets to beat Theodore. Mark Letestu, near the right dot, fed a pass back to the point where Mr. Assist Nikita Nikitin gathered the puck, and wristed a shot untouched past Theodore. More than just a pretty face, this Nikki fellow.

2-0 Jackets: Nikita Nikitin (Mark Letestu, Vinny Prospal)

Less than a minute after the goal, Jared Boll tried his hand at offense, taking the puck hard to the net. Near the net, he attempted a backhand, but was then checked from behind into the back boards by Gudbranson. Boll was down for a few moments but after shaking out the cobwebs he made it back to the bench. Gudbranson was handed a well-deserved boarding penalty.

It was easily one of the more interesting powerplays that I've seen. Derek Dorsett had a fabulous chance in front on a jam play, but Theodore got a toe on the puck at the last second. A scum ensued, which saw both teams collapse in the blue paint, with Dorse held in place by Mike Weaver, who was bear-hugging Dorsett's leg. The ref didn't blow the whistle, and the puck eventually squeaked out. During the scrum, Dorsett lost his helmet, but before he could get back to the bench the Jackets regained the zone, with Dorsett going to the front of the net awaiting a pass. The puck was eventually frozen but Dorsett and Ed Jovanovski got into it and were handed matching minors. It was great to see Dorse play most of the shift helmetless, so old school.

After a late media timeout, the Panthers committed another too-many-men penalty. Though the Jackets failed to score, one thing became clear- Umberger and Atkinson have become quite the creative, and productive duo.

End of the second period, 2-0 Jackets.

Third Period

The first three or so minutes of the third period were uneventful, but the man I call Mr. Assist added a dose of excitement by scoring his second goal of the game. Ryan Johansen won a faceoff at the dot to Theodore's left. The puck went to Dorsett, who then slid the puck back to Nikitin. Nikki fired a hard wrister on-net, which Theodore was unable to handle. With two goals this game, I've retired the Mr. Assist moniker.

3-0 Jackets: Nikita Nikitin (Derek Dorsett, Ryan Johansen)

At 7:57, the Panthers ruined it for those of us who held hope for a York shutout. Tomas Kopecky was the culprit.

3-1 Jackets: Tomas Kopecky (Dmitry Kulikov, Brian Campbell)

Midway through the period head coach Todd Richards used his timeout to give the players on the ice a breather after an icing. Speaking of Richards, it will be interesting to see if he will be handed the full-time coaching position next season, or if he'll have to interview with a new pool of candidates.

The Jackets were content with dumping the puck, but over the last few minutes of the game the bottom six players were out there stufling the Panthers, and also going on the offensive. Gillies had another solid shift in the offensive zone, here's hoping that he gets rewarded with a goal in the near future.

With under 90 seconds left, the Panthers pulled Theodore. Nikki got his shot at the hat trick, but the puck was deflected by the last man back for Florida. The Panthers applied pressure, but the puck eventually made its way to Nash, who skated up to center ice before flipping the puck to center. Umberger was there to receive the puck, and fired it into the open net.

4-1 Jackets: R.J. Umberger (Rick Nash, Nikita Nikitin)

Krys Barch attempted to stir things up late in the period, but was given a cross-checking minor.

Final Score: 4-1 Jackets.

Standard Bearers:

  • Nikki Six had a monster game, great to see. If you're like me, and in the Howson camp, the trade to acquire him looks better and better with each passing game.
  • Umby continued his run of hot play, scoring another pair of goals. I'm so happy that he can salvage at least part of a lost season.
  • Allen York was great tonight, stopping 28 shots and earning his second-straight NHL win. I was really hoping for a shutout.
  • Congrats to Dalton Prout for playing in his first NHL game.

Bottom of the Barrel:

  • Not a lot of bad tonight, everybody did their jobs. I would have liked to have seen more from 61 perhaps.
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