In the first meeting of the Jackets and Kings since the Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson deal went down, the Jackets were the better team throughout, receiving great performances from Johnson and Mark Letestu en route to a 3-1 victory. Jeff Carter, meanwhile, dealt with the boo birds every time he touched the puck and was a non-factor.
Aside from a scary moment with Steve Mason, this was a gritty, well-earned victory for the Jackets- their fourth in a row. Please read on after the jump for the full story.First Period
Seconds in to the game, Jeff Carter-making his return to Nationwide Arena- was booed heartily when he first touched the puck. Jack Johnson on the other hand, was cheered when he fired off the first shot of the game for the Jackets, which was stopped by LA starter Jonathan Bernier.
It took almost five minutes for the first real action to begin. Colton Gillies, playing right wing on the third line, beat a defender and fired a shot on Bernier. The puck was kicked to the slot where it found the stick of Derek Dorsett, but somehow the puck stayed out of the net. Darryl Boyce, the third member of that line, made a good play along the boards to keep the puck alive. What the bottom six players on the Jackets don't have in skill, they more than make up for in heart and determination.
The next few minutes leading up the media timeout were quite physical, with both teams grinding it out along the boards. Carter was hearing it from the crowd every time he was near the puck, and it seemed to jar him as he lost a pair of board battles.
Just after play resumed post-media timeout, Vinny Prospal made a play in the left corner, sliding the puck to the opposite point where James Wisniewski was waiting. Wisniewski fired a hard, low slapper toward the net, at which point Mark Letestu managed to get a stick on it to deflect it past Bernier.
1-0 Jackets: Mark Letestu (James Wisniewski, Vinny Prospal)
Less than two minutes later, the Jackets earned the first powerplay of the game when Willie Mitchell got his stick up on Maksim Mayorov. With three quarters of the man advantage over, Dorsett lost the puck as he crossed his own blueline. With only Derick Brassard back, Anze Kopitar pounced, flying in on Steve Mason, beating him in-close.
1-1 Anze Kopitar (Dustin Brown)
With 2:34 left Wisniewski hauled down Anze Kopitar as he tried to bull his way toward the Columbus net. Carter was on the ice for most of the first minute, and the crowd was especially throaty, ensuring that he knew with absolutely no doubt that his presence was most unwelcome.
With just over eight seconds left in the period, Brassard received the puck near the LA blueline. After some stickhandling, the puck was dropped to a pinching Jack Johnson, who wired the puck past Bernier.
2-1 Jackets: Jack Johnson (Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger)
End of the first period, 2-1 Jackets.
It took the Jackets just over three minutes to go up by a pair. After some sustained pressure by the Kings, Mayorov was able to skate into the LA zone after receiving the puck from Nikita Nikitin. As he skated over the LA blueline, he dropped the puck back to Prospal. Vinny slapped the puck on net, with Bernier making the save, but couldn't smother the rebound. During the scrum, Letestu was able to find the loose puck and buried it for his second goal of the game.
3-1 Jackets: Mark Letestu (Maksim Mayorov, Vinny Prospal)
The goal gave the Jackets a ton of energy, with Jack Johnson and Cam Atkinson getting a pair of solid scoring opportunities. You could almost feel the confidence that the Jackets were oozing at this point of the game.
The physical play came to a head shortly before the six minute mark. Dorsett fired a shot on Bernier, but the puck slid beside and behind the net. Boyce picked up the puck, and while behind the goal line he was dumped hard by Dustin Penner. Dorsett immediately finished his check on Alec Martinez-an equally hard blow. This led to a dustup between the two teams, with the result being roughing minors for Dorsett, Martinez and Matt Greene.
The Jackets were unable to score on the ensuing powerplay, but had a good thing going until Vinny was dumped in the corner by none other than the down-low zebra. He had some choice words for the ref after he returned to the bench.
At 11:08 Jarret Stoll went off for
being a moron interference. While standing in front of the net, he turned and threw John Moore into the net. As Moore flew down towards the ice, his skate blade knicked Steve Mason's wrist. Mason left the ice right away, replaced by Curtis Sanford. It was a terrible shame, as Mason had been playing the best hockey of his career since his Calder trophy-winning rookie campaign. Mason did return to the bench, however, and by all account the cut was not serious. The Jackets were unable to pot one while up a man.
There was little to write home about until slightly over a minute remaining in the period. Carter skated with the puck over the blueline, and the volume and bass of the boos hit a game-high. He promptly fanned on his shot, transforming the boos to a mocking cheer.
End of the second period, 3-1 Jackets.
Under a minute into the final period, the Jackets went back to the powerplay. Brassard had just finished a check along the boards when he was hit from Mitchell. Mitchell was called for boarding. The Jackets had one good chance, with Nikitin blasting a one-timer on Bernier, the rebound going to the stick of Letestu. Letestu fired, but Bernier stacked the pads to deny the Jackets' forward.
Midway through the period Vinny had a partial breakaway, but was stopped by Bernier. This was the first clear chance for either team after a few minutes of back-and-forth play.
Shortly before a media timeout with about five minutes left in regulation, Justin Williams streaked down the left wing, getting off a hard wrister. Luckily for the Jackets, it found iron, maintaining the two-goal lead.
Maksim Mayorov was noticeable on every shift for me tonight. He was showcasing speed, and a nose for the net. He's paid his dues in the AHL, and if he elects to stay in North America next season, I'd love to see what he can bring on a more permanent basis.
With under five remaining, Nash and Umberger went in on the LA net on a two-on-one. As Umberger got the shot off, he was hooked by Drew Doughty, who was sent off for two minutes. Jack Johnson came oh so close to getting his second goal of the game when he was able to redirect a puck on net, but Bernier got a piece. The puck then slid in the blue paint and froze, but the Jackets weren't able to poke it in.
With 1:20 left, the Kings took their timeout and pulled Bernier. Shortly after the faceoff, Nash and Umberger rushed up-ice, and with the wide open cage staring at him, Umberger wound up....and his stick broke. Brassard was seen giving him a hard time on the bench, all smiles. It's great when the team is able to have fun at work.
Final Score: 3-1 Jackets.
- Jack Johnson was phenomenal in his first game against his former team. He was an offensive threat all evening, scoring the game winner.
- Mark Letestu was easily the best Columbus forward on this night. Aside from his two goals, he was making things happen all night. He and Vinny have formed quite the duo, and I can't wait for linemate Cam Atkinson to get in on the scoring parade.
- I thought Maksim Mayorov made the most of his limited ice time. His speed and effort on the third goal was evident.
- The fans at Nationwide ensured that their opinion of Jeff Carter was loud and clear. Great to see the passion.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Steve Mason was playing another great game before getting knicked by John Moore's skate on a bonehead play by Jarret Stoll. He missed the end of the game, but the cut doesn't seem serious.
- I hate to do this, but Derek Dorsett had a rare off-night. His turnover led to the Kings' only goal, and other than a retaliatory hit on Alec Martinez (great to see) he was a tad invisible. Dorse will be back next game, kicking ass and taking names.