It's an interesting question if the Blue Jackets or the Refs were their worst enemy tonight, but unfortunately they compounded to wipe out a strong effort against the Blackhawks in a 3-2 loss.
Despite the lack of Cam Atkinson in the lineup due to a lower body injury, the team shuffled the lines a bit more, put their skates on, and started attacking Corey Crawford like mad, eventually paying off when a scramble around the Chicago net ended with Mark Letestu hammering home his first goal of the season.
Steve Mason was playing well, and made some solid saves against Jonathan Toews and David Bolland, but late in the first period, a bad turnover by Vinny Prospal and positioning by Adrian Aucoin allowed Patrick Kane to blitz the net, and Bolland would be there to pick up the rebound after Mason lost his stick on the initial save / collision.
The second period would begin with an almost tentative pace, but the Hawks would find their legs first, exploiting another Jackets turnover (this one almost entirely on Adrian Aucoin), led to Niklas Hjalmarsson firing in a blast that Brian Bickell would redirect to give the Hawks the lead.
Things seemed to be going back Columbus' way a few minutes later when Jared Boll and Jamal Mayers dropped the gloves, and Mayers took an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. James Wisniewski set up Derick Brassard at the blue line, and the blast beat Crawford cleanly....but midway through the celebration, referee Dan O'Rourke waved off the goal.
Supposedly, Foligno was interfering with Crawford, but multiple replays show both Umberger and Foligno were clear of the crease when the puck went in. The call has been spreading around the internet, and I expect we're going to see it held up for the next day or two as a case of NHL officials blowing another major call.
(Why wasn't this reviewable, by the way? Isn't getting calls like this right the entire point of video review?)
The team would try to get back on the stick through the end of the second period, but couldn't find another opening, the momentum totally disrupted by the disallowed goal.
Things didn't improve in the third period, when Mark Letestu sent a pass straight to Toews, and the Blackhawks captain put his club up 3-1.
The possibility of physical and mental collapse was very real, and it seemed like the club's collective psyche was teetering over the chasm. Even though the team earned a double minor midway through the final frame, they followed it with a series of penalties that finally saw the Hawks on an extended 4 on 3, though thankfully Mason and the PK unit managed to fight off the wolves.
With time running down, coach Richards chose to pull Mason for an extra attacker, and fans would be electrified when Ryan Johansen won the faceoff, set up Brandon Dubinsky around the net, and the wraparound attempt would squirt over to Artem Anisimov, who backhanded the puck home.
The club had two minutes left on the clock, but couldn't establish consistent pressure, even though the Hawks managed to ice the puck twice during the final minute of play. The club battled, but time simply ran out.
Final Score: Blackhawks 3 - Jackets 2 (Refs 1)
- Ryan Johansen - 5 shots, 2 blocks, a hit, an assist, and 57% in the faceoff circle. The more the Johan plays, the more it feels like he's on the verge of breaking loose.
- Artem Anisimov - Another big goal, and like Johansen, he also was impressive on draws, winning 54%. Even more impressive, he logged 18:01 of ice time - second among forwards to only Brandon Dubinsky.
- Steve Mason - Yes, really. I feel like Mason had a pretty decent start. None of the Hawks goals were major errors on his part, and I felt like he made some big saves to keep the game from getting totally out of control.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Referee Dan O'Rourke - The waived goal was bad enough, but the overall tone of the game seemed dominated by questionable penalty calls. Refs aren't supposed to control the game, but they were the story here.
- Mental Game - Too many turnovers, too many passes to whom it may concern, and too many undisciplined plays.
- Derek MacKenzie - Not a good day for DMac - Bad in the dot, out of position several times, and some really bad passes.
Scoring is just not happening for this club right now, and it hurts. Getting back in games is a real problem, and the losing one of our best scorers in Cam is painful. After the AHL all star game on Tuesday, I really wonder if we'll see JAM called up for a few games, especially if the club can't get anything going against Dallas or Minnesota.