I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
It's hard to overstate my satisfaction with this game. After a long, frustrating season and a diet of worms against so many teams in the Central Division, every time the Jackets come out with a strong effort and a win, you can't help but smile.
The Klingon thought admirals teach us that revenge is a dish best served cold. On a night where the Blues looked to pick up at least a point vs. Columbus to clinch the Central Division title, it was very cold, indeed...The St. Louis Blues put the wood to Allen York early, getting quick shots to test the rookie goaltender, but the defense helped to push their attempts to the perimeter.
The Jackets offense would go started thanks to an unexpected contributor early in the first period. With the fourth line digging the puck out from behind York and carrying it up the ice. Darryl Boyce would drive up the far boards and then throw the puck to the net on Jaroslav Halak. Jared Boll would be in the perfect spot as he came across the crease to pick up the rebound and tap it into the net, scoring his second goal of the year.
The Western Conference leaders would respond almost immediately, with David Backes walking through a gap in the coverage and picking up a long pass from Alex Steen to fire the puck past York just twenty seconds after the opening goal.
Things seemed to go from competitive to dangerous when Colton Gillies would be called for tripping, but the Jackets PK worked to shut down the Blues' power play. St. Louis would keep up the pressure, but the tables would turn when R.J. Umberger forced the puck away from Chris Stewart and raced up ice on a breakaway. We've heard this song before, but this time instead of ending in a frustrating bobble, he was, in fact, UMBY, DAMMIT, and buried the puck with a slick backhand move.
The Jackets would hold the 2-1 lead until well into the second period, when Scott Nichol took liberties with Nikita Nikitin, drawing a double minor for high sticking. The Jackets' power play put forward several solid opportunities, but the penalty would be on the verge of expiration before R.J. Umberger crashed the crease and took a perfect pass from Cam Atkinson, driving it home amid the chaos for the 3-1 lead.
The physical play between the two foes turned up a notch when Jared Boll delivered a crushing hit on Scott Nichol, and the checking center would drop the gloves and go challenge the enforcer immediately, leading to a frank exchange of views. The Jackets' enforcer would come out on top, and Nichol would receive five for fighting, an instigator and game misconduct for the St. Louis forward after the exchange, while Boll picked up a charging minor along with the five minute fighting major.
The Jackets would look to push the play through the end of the period, but a rush up ice by Andy MacDonald would end with the veteran center dropping the puck to David Perron, who fired from a sharp angle to beat York through a gap at his legs.
But there's no sense crying over every mistake. You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.
The Jackets would spend much of the third period on the power play, starting from an early high sticking call from Alex Pietrangelo, then a long series of four on four after Derek Dorsett challenged Kent Huskins to have a go.
After the game returned to even strength and the Jackets killed off a tripping minor to Jack Johnson, Huskins would be back in the box for a hook, and David Backes would join him on a roughing call, leading to a two man advantage for the Jackets.
The Columbus PP started to get to work when the Blues also lost the services of Alex Pietrangelo after being whistled for a slash and then receiving an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct, extending the power play.
As time ticked down on the penalties, the Jackets cycled their way through the zone before Rick Nash sent the puck from the goal line to the crease, where Derek Dorsett would redirect it home to open a three goal lead.
The Jackets would run into penalty trouble of their own, with Brett Lebda and R.J. Umberger both called for minors, though Patrik Berglund would be goaded into taking a roughing call of his own. Killing the penalty, the Jackets leaned on York, who held his ground and continued to make several tough saves under pressure.
With time running down, the Blues would send Halak to the bench with just under two minutes left in regulation, looking to make up the lost ground. The play backfired, however, when Vinny Prospal took a rebound out of the crease and skated it clear of danger before firing it into the open cage, sealing the victory and handing St. Louis just their fifth loss on home ice this season.
Final Score - Jackets 5, Blues 2
- R. J. Umberger - His breakaway goal was a pleasant surprise, but that power play goal was "vintage" Umby, and exactly what we'd hoped for this season. Is he still using the last couple of Bauer twigs? If this point streak keeps up, the team needs to call every Play It Again Sports in the US to see if they can find him enough for next season...
- Allen York - Yes, it's certainly true that teams don't have a "book" on York yet, and that helps him in his first starts, but it's still three starts and three wins for the rookie netminder. Shutting down a VERY good St. Louis team and making 34 saves tonight, he might just be the unexpected silver lining to all the goaltending injuries.
- Derek Dorsett - A big goal, big hits, big fights, and staying in the game after eating a puck in the face while sitting on the bench! By all reports Dorsett needed some attention from the training staff after the game - here's hoping he'll be back in business for Tuesday to finish strong.
- JACK M-F'IN JOHNSON - 31:54 minutes of ice time. That makes four games in a row he's logged 30 minutes or more. He's insane! Out of his mind! And he just keeps making things happen, solid defensively and expanding the team's puck movement with his passing skills. If he's not careful, the coaching staff may keep throwing him out every other shift next season, too!
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Y'know what? Naah. This marks three wins against playoff teams (two of them division leaders) with strong offensive performances, excellent D, and some pretty exciting goaltending. The only negatives I can see is perhaps the penalty trouble, but show me a game against St. Louis where we DON'T see each side taking a boatload of PIMS? They hate us. We hate them. These things happen, and the game is better for it.
The Jackets will rest, repair, and re-arm before flying to Arizona and taking a few days off prior to taking on the Phoenix Coyotes. Antoine, Rusty, and the Wizard are in a hard scrap for the eighth seed - it will be interesting to see if the Jackets can keep up this roll and play spoiler for another club.