The Blue Jackets came out with a bang against the defending Stanley Cup champion LA Kings, but things started to go downhill in the second period and never recovered.
"I. am. VERY. DISAPPOINTED!"
J-b. E. Zorg
Despite the fact that the Blue Jackets were mounting a patchwork defense, there were reasons to feel some excitement for this game. Matt Calvert was back from injury, the club had put on an impressive showing against the Red Wings, they'd finally gotten a few days of rest and practice under their belts, and the Kings had been looking decidedly mortal over their last few outings.
The start of the game seemed to confirm this. Hitting hard and working the puck, the Jackets put early pressure on Jonathan Quick, and the reigning Conn Smythe winner nearly coughed up an early goal several times, saved either by his defense or a lucky bounce.
The Kings seemed to get the benefit of some luck midway through the first period after a shot by Slava Voynov went through Steve Mason, but the goal was waved off immediately due to contact in the crease by Anze Kopitar, and a few minutes later the Jackets would finally cash in, with Derek MacKenzie driving to the net and redirecting a shot from Fedor Tyutin for his first of the season.
The formula seemed solid, and the Jackets nearly generated another goal before the period came to an end, but they would have to settle for a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Hockey, however, is rarely a game of simple formulas. It is a battle of adjustments, compensation, and momentum.
Darryl Sutter clearly had some adjustments for his club in the first intermission, and the Kings dictated the second period right off the bat thanks to Anze Kopitar blowing through the Columbus defense and beating Steve Mason in the opening minute of the frame. Vinny Prospal would get called for interference after tying up Trevor Lewis following a faceoff a few minutes later, and the Jackets' PK would not be up to the challenge, unable to break up the Kings' offense. The passive defense would eventually allow Jeff Carter to put LA ahead when a puck thrown into the crease slid through Mason's legs and trickled into the net.
Perhaps in an attempt to spark the club's fire, Derek Dorsett engaged in a bout with Colin Fraser, and perhaps it was a good dose of medicine, as Tim Erixon would set up Derick Brassard for the tying goal on the following shift, and Dustin Brown would give Columbus a chance to go ahead when he put the puck over the glass for delay of game.
The power play, however, failed to register a single shot, and spent more time in their own zone than on the attack. With such a deflating result, it's no surprise that the team's energy began to flag again, and this time the Kings would not hesitate, backing Columbus deeper and deeper into their zone before Voynov would tee up another blast, this one beating Mason cleanly for the 3-2 lead.
Not surprisingly, this is where things got ugly.
Brandon Dubinsky would attempt to use some of Dorsett's methods to get the team playing, leveling Rob Scuderi behind his own net with a hit that was iffy, at best, and appeared to drive Scuderi's head and shoulder into the boards.
Not surprisingly, Mike Richards would come to his teammate's defense, and the two perennial opponents dropped the gloves once again.
When the dust settled, Dubinsky would be given five for boarding, five for fighting, and a game misconduct to end his evening, while Richards would receive five for fighting, two for instigating, two for instigating with a visor, and a ten minute misconduct, while Scuderi would go to the locker room for repairs, though he would return later in the game.
Despite an extended 4 on 4 sequence and two of LA's best players being taken off the ice, the Jackets still could not find another goal, and in fact would not find another shot, though to their credit the team did kill the additional minute of the Dubinsky penalty.
The Jackets, in fact, would not register another shot until almost four minutes into the third period, even with Jeff Carter taking another penalty (a double minor for high-sticking Vinny Prospal), thanks to Artem Anisimov hitting Quick with another sick backhander that the goaltender was just barely able to grab out of the air.
Unsurprisingly, the Jackets continued to deflate as the period wound on, and though LA would not score after drawing another penalty midway through the period, the power play started a cycle that would not be denied, and Mike Richards would eventually tap in his first of the year after Steve Mason failed to freeze a loose puck with the former Philadelphia captain on his doorstep.
With LA up by two goals and six minutes to play, it was all over but the shouting. Give Columbus credit for not allowing an empty net goal, and perhaps in a sick way for not being the worst margin of defeat tonight (both Detroit and St. Louis are currently losing by more than three goals as I write this), but once again the sixty minute effort was not there for this club, and a promising start was little more than a mirage.
Final Score: Kings 4 - Jackets 2
- Derek MacKenzie - Always nice to see effort rewarded, and D-Mac spent a lot of this game hustling both against the Kings' fourth line and on the PK.
- Tim Erixon - Erixon's assist was very nearly his first NHL goal, and I would say he had a decent game paired with Jack Johnson.
- Derek Dorsett - Admittedly, he didn't score, but his fight seemed to actually do what hockey fights are, on paper, supposed to accomplish, and he lead the team with four shots on goal tonight.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Second Period Effort: No, really, guys, what the hell was that? Giving up three goals, outshot 17-2, outworked in basically every possible way. I need to invent new words to describe how amazingly stanktacular this collapsed bowel of a period was.
- Brandon Dubinsky: That hit was uncalled for, and while I won't shed a tear for Mike Richards getting tuned up, you're a player this team needs on the ice, not leaving the game and almost certainly headed for a disciplinary hearing.
- R.J. Umberger - Despite multiple good looks and a semi-breakaway, still nothing. Perhaps when the team is out in LA next week you can spend some time trying to shoot the puck at the ocean.
- Power Play - Supposedly the team worked "extensively" on the power play during yesterday's practice. Supposedly.
The Jackets get tomorrow off, then face the currently cellar dwelling Calgary Flames...who appear to be breaking out of their slump after hammering Detroit. Here's hoping that guys like Nikitin and Aucoin are ready to come back to the lineup. The team needs them.