The Blue Jackets came into this game having played three straight overtime games, and only finally breaking through on Sunday. They were looking to win back-to-back games for the first time all season, and the pond hockey Oilers were trying to break a two-game losing streak.
The teams played fast and loose without a lot of structure, and each team had an answer each time they fell behind. The Jackets would need to call on Sergei Bobrovsky in relief, however, and that move proved to be the deciding factor in this game.
The first few minutes were rough for Columbus as they struggled to get going. Edmonton looked to be springing rushes at every chance they could, and Dalton Prout made a good recovery to stop Ryan Nugent-Hopkins around the 4:10 on one of those breaks. However, off of the ensuing faceoff, Steve Mason's rough night would begin. Eric Belanger won the draw, and Ryan Jones sent to puck to the point. Jeff Petry sent a shot on net that may have gone off a Jackets player in front. Regardless, it found its way past Mason to make it 1-0 Oil.
Ironically, the goal seemed to wake the Jackets up a bit. They started forechecking with a bit more conviction, and were able to start peppering Devan Dubnyk. The Oilers sent the puck off the wall, and it took a weird bounce to the center of the ice. Tim Erixon was able to hold the puck in. He sent it to Jared Boll at the right half-wall, and Boller sent a half-shot/half-pass that Derek MacKenzie--who beat Ryan Whitney to the spot--was able to tap home from just outside the crease for his third goal of the season.
The Jackets continued to improve their offensive work-ethic, and Artem Anisimov was able to use his size and speed to draw a tripping penalty from Whitney at 11:57. The first 75 seconds of the Power Play were, according to my notes, "atrocious." But, after that the Jackets finally got set up. Mark Letestu manned the right point, and sent a blistering shot in that rang off the post. Dubnyk was down, and Ryan Johansen got a stick on it to try to poke it home. Dubnyk blocked that shot, but he blocked it right to Vinny Prospal, who sent his ninth goal over a sprawled Dubnyk to give the Jackets their first lead. For Vinny, it was his third straight game with a goal.
After a rush to the Edmonton net, a strange thing happened: Matt Calvert found himself in his first NHL fight. He took exception to Petry, and the two tangeld. Calvert got his helmet knocked off, but gave some shots as well and forced the take-down. However, the Jackets would end up losing: Calvert received a game-misconduct due to not having his jersey tied down. MacKenzie and Derick Brassard would take those extra shifts throughout the rest of the game.
The Jackets got another Power Play as Nail Yakupov was forced to hold Johansen while trailing on a 2-on-1 with Johansen and R.J. Umberger. However, after the Power Play it seemed as though the Jackets let up a bit, content to take the lead into the dressing room. Only, no one told the Oilers.
Taylor Hall got the puck to Nugent-Hopkins, who was able to pull up and survey as the Jackets seemed to sag back. No one covered Whitney pinching in on the right side, and RNH hit him to set up a shot that Mason probably should have stopped as it went through his five hole.
End of First Period - 2-2 Tie
The Jackets willingness to give the Oilers a bit too much cushion would burn them again just a few seconds into the second period. Sam Gagner carried the puck in, and was allowed to take it deep. Nick Foligno overplayed Magnus Paajarvi on the off-wing, and Gagner sent a great pass to Paajarvi. In one slick move, he settled the puck, turned, and roofed it over Mason. The goal was the third for Edmonton on eight shots, and Todd Richards had seen enough. Mason was pulled just 31 seconds into the second.
Enter Bobrovsky. He got a chance to see the puck early, and perhaps that helped him get comfortable. Suffice it to say the move to change was the right one: Edmonton would not get another puck into the Columbus net the rest of the night.
Columbus's defense was still suspect at times, but they continued to get their offense going trying to tie the game. The line of Umberger, Johansen, and Foligno had some good chances, with a three-on-two executed to near-perfection. Umby brought it in on the right and fed a beauty cross-ice pass to Johansen. Joey ripped a one-timer that was stopped, and as the rebound flew to Foligno he got the shaft of his stick on it. The puck bounced just wide.
Edmonton took a turn controlling the puck, but the Jackets were finally able get the puck deep again. Prospal sent it deep to Brassard behind the goal. Brass then sent a gorgeous feed into the slot, and one Jack Johnson--in his first game back from injury--was there to hammer home his second of the season on a one-timer high past Dubnyk.
Just past the halfway point of the game, it was a 3-3 tie. And then the goaltenders took over.
End of 2nd Period - 3-3 Tie
The third period belonged to Bobrovsky and the Jackets' penalty killers. Prout got it started with a high sticking call behind the play at 3:33 of the period. The kill was flat-out amazing. For the first 90 seconds, Edmonton couldn't get set up. Columbus had possession at times, and they certainly had more shorty chances than Edmonton had on the PP.
Brassard would trip Belanger at 7:18, and this time it was Anisimov who would draw a reciprocal trip from Yakupov just nine seconds into the penalty. The teams played 4-on-4 for 1:51.
The teams played some free-wheeling hockey for 10 minutes or so, and then when "winning time" came around, Bobrovsky basically won the game for Columbus. With about three minutes left, there was a loose defensive play by Columbus and a failed clear/turnover was the result. Bobrovsky was forced to make a stellar save--with the help of a quick whistle--to keep the game knotted at 3-3.
Each team got one last good look, as Letestu walked in just under 2:00, but lost the puck off his stick. Likewise, Jones had a chance around the 1:00 mark, and JMFJ blocked the shot.
End of 3rd Period - 3-3 Tie
Much like the third, the PK would be on show again. Foligno went off at 0:25 for closing his hand on the puck during a puck battle in the corner. It was a horribly-timed penalty, and there were multiple times that it looked like it would cost them the extra point.
But again, Bobrovsky.
The Oilers worked the puck methodically, with two minutes of wide open ice on the 4-on-3. They created a golden chance for Jordan Eberle as the puck found him on the left doorstep after a cross-ice feed. Eberle had time to settle and shoot. He had most of a wide-open net.
He shot it into the spot that had become re-occupied by Bobrovsky's right pad.
It was the play of the hockey game, pure and simple.
The Oilers still had about 90 seconds of Power Play time, and they executed the same setup almost a minute later. This time, Eberle made sure to elevate the puck. The issue? This time he elevated it too high; it sailed over the net.
The Jackets completed the kill, and were able to mount a slight counter-offensive late. With about 45 seconds left, the building almost exploded as the puck made its way to the point and JMFJ loaded up a one timer that hit the post so hard it shook the goal. But, 65 minutes wasn't enough for this one. On to the shootout.
End of Overtime - 3-3 Tie
You would think a "skills competition" would favor the Oilers.
Have I mentioned Bobrovsky?
To be fair, Bob got some help from two beautiful wristers from Anisimov and Letestu, but wouldn't let either of the Oilers attempts get past him. Shootout results:
Anisimov - GOAL - pull to backhand, roofed off crossbar
Gagner - MISS - crazy stick taps, Bob waited him out, right pad/blocker save
Atkinson - MISS - lost puck, Dubnyk poke-checked.
Ales Hemsky - MISS - tried to go five-hole, Bob stopped
Letestu - GOAL - back-to-forehand, roofed wrister
Final Score - 4-3 Blue Jackets (SO)
Sergei Bobrovsky - Came in cold after Steve Mason struggled, and Bob was magnificent. The save on Eberle in the overtime was nothing short of spectacular. Bonus stick-tap to Todd Richards for not hesitating to go to Bob once Mason let in the third goal; it saved the game for Columbus. Bob stopped all 21 shots he faced as well as the two shoot-out attempts he faced.
Mark Letestu - What more needs to be said about the season Test Tube is having? He's doing everything--and I mean EVERYTHING--that the coaches have asked of him. He plays in all three facets of the game, and he's continuing to score--he has a four-game point streak going. His shoot-out goal was sick. He won 7-of-13 faceoffs. He is very clearly making the kind of impression on John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen that should have him around for years to come.
The PK - Edmonton's Power Play is one of the best in the league, and the Jackets' PK was dominant at times. The first time out, they played keep-away for 90 seconds. The 4-on-3 kill in OT was huge. Their streak continues with seven straight games keeping opposing PP units off the scoreboard, and they have looked better and better each game. And, Brandon Dubinsky should be back soon, and will only make this PK unit better.
Vinny Prospal - A goal--his third straight game with a goal--and an assist move him to 749 career points. Vinny is continuing to put goals like he was 10 years younger. His leadership cannot be overstated for this club as they find their way and learn to win going forward.
Bottom of the Barrel
Steve Mason - I don't like to play the "He should have stopped this goal" game, and he didn't get a ton of help on some of those goals, but three goals in eight shots? Not good. The coaches say they keep waiting for one goalie to step up. It certainly wasn't Mason tonight. He's out of chances, in my opinion. Bob should be the "starter" the rest of this "season" to see how he handles it.
Defensive Cushion and Clears - There were quite a few times the whole team was careless with the puck trying to get it out of their zone. The Oilers' second goal was a result of some lax defensive effort in terms of giving the Oiler players too much cushion. To be careless with the puck played right into the hands of the Oilers' skill.
Matt Calvert's Jersey - Tongue in cheek, here, but losing Calvert for most of the game did definitely suck. I'm sure he didn't go out there thinking he'd be in his first NHL fight, but I suspect he'll be tying that jersey down going forward.
The Jackets host the Canucks on Thursday, and look for a third win in a row.