"From Center City in the East to Browns Valley in the West, an Iron Curtain has descended across the State of Hockey."
-Sir Winston Churchill
Barely seconds into the game, Minnesota's Charlie Coyle lined up Artem Anisimov at the boards with a nasty hit to the head that sent the Russian winger to the ice. To his credit, Brandon Dubinsky challenged Coyle immediately, earning 17 minutes of penalties in the process. Coyle would be ejected from the game for the hit, and while I heard several people saying Arty had his head down, there's no excuse for Coyle taking the shot after Anisimov got rid of the puck, particularly with his elbow up and extended. The winger would leave the game under the supervision of head trainer Mike Vogt, and it was later announced he would not return with an "upper body" injury. You don't want to predict anything, but the possibility of a concussion is very real, and very scary.
Despite the Jackets eventually getting an early power play, they simply couldn't get their chemistry going. The shortened bench would lead to rough combinations and clear signs of early fatigue, but thankfully, the team had Sergei Bobrovsky in the pipes.
Bob made several heartstopping saves, and the Wild simply couldn't find a way to get the puck past him...until Jack Johnson inadvertently did it for them. Trying to help move the puck away from Jason Pominville in front of the net, he'd try to play the puck and sent it past Bobrovsky's outstretched leg instead.
The Wild would be unable to capitalize, while the Jackets drew energy from Jared Boll leveling Clayton Stoner after the defenseman made the singularly poor decision to challenge the already raging Boll. A flurry of fists ended with Boll decisively driving Stoner to the ice as the linesmen hurriedly separated the combatants before any more harm could be done.
Frustrated, hurting, and down a goal in a game they desperately needed to win, the Jackets came out for the second period fueled with righteous rage. I've no idea what Todd Richards told the team, but it must have worked. Dominating the Wild zone and creating sustained offensive pressure for the first time all night, Vinny Prospal would tie the game when he shook loose of the defense and took a perfect feed from Dubinsky to hammer home the tying goal from the high slot.
Almost before the dust had settled from that, the Jackets were right back to work, keeping the Wild pinned in their zone and moving the puck well before Vinny slid up to the point and passed the puck over to Fedor Tyutin along the blue line. Tyoots pinched in, found a lane, and bombed the puck past Nicklas Backstrom to put the team ahead.
The goal would stand through power play opportunities for both clubs towards the end of the period, and even though the Jackets showed more signs of fatigue, they kept themselves in the game, and helped to keep the Wild to the perimeter, allowing Bob to see the puck.
Things looked to be on the way to a regulation win when Dalton Prout was called for a crosscheck on Devin Setoguchi with just under four minutes to go. More than a few people have...questioned...the call, particularly since the former Shark seemed to go down awfully easy, but it was called, and unfortunately Minnesota would capitalize on their opportunity when Jason Pominville picked up a rebound from a Zach Parise shot and slapped it back in through traffic to tie the game. (Of course, no mention of the fact that the crease looked like a clown car, but ah, well.)
Nick Foligno had a golden opportunity to hammer the door shut in the final minutes of regulation, but hit iron, and we would be heading to OT.
Each club had opportunities to end the game, but both goalies made the saves they needed to, and we were off to a shootout.
Minnesota opened the skills competition with Zach Parise, but Bob snapped the glove to deny his attempt, while Mark Letestu walked in and annihilated Backstrom at close range. (Seriously, I think his water bottle is still hanging around at a LaGrange point.)
With the patience of a saint and the instincts of an assassin, he slid into the zone and got Backstrom to commit early, then cut across the crease and tapped the puck into a wide open net to seal the game. Two games, two nights, four HUGE points.
Final Score: Jackets 3 - Wild 2 (SO)
- Sergei Bobrovsky - 39 saves on 41 shots tonight, plus two HUGE stops in the shootout. Of course, it'd also be nice if the team didn't REQUIRE him to make 39 saves plus two in the shootout, but the fact remains that Bob is Bob, and Bob is Clutch.
- Vinny Prospal - Vinny has been the engine driving this team so many times, but perhaps tonight more than any game this season. He had a piece of both regulation goals, challenged the Wild at every opportunity, and was one hell of an "Angry Old Man" tonight.
- Brandon Dubinsky - Ok, yeah, losing him for most of the first period hurt, but I can't fault his reasons or his response, and he came back and paid it off in a big way, contributing offensively and defensively all night.
- Cam Atkinson - Honorable mention because somehow Cam had been scoreless in shootouts this year at the NHL level. What a sick move to break the seal.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Jack Johnson - Seriously, you scored into your own net. I'd be gentler if you at least made up for it by putting one past Backstrom to make up for it!
- Upper Body Injuries - Scary, scary hit. Sincerely hoping it wasn't as bad as it looked, but I suspect this team is going to need to keep finding ways to score without #42 in the lineup for the remainder of the regular season.
- San Jose Sharks - You had ONE job...
Tied in points with the Wings and Stars, and amazingly, in spitting distance of San Jose in 5th place, if the team keeps finding ways to win, the road ahead gets very interesting. It's still difficult, but they're taking care of their own business, and that's big piece of the puzzle.
On to Colorado, where the team will get a chance to catch their breath before facing an Avalanche team that has turned things around of late. Can't take anything for granted - and this is a team that has hurt Columbus before.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me down to lie
Through pastures green
He leadeth me the silent waters by
With bright knives he releaseth my soul
He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places
He converteth me to lamb cutlets
For lo, he hath great power
and great hunger
When cometh the day we lowly ones
Through quiet reflection and great dedication
Master the art of karate
Lo, we shall rise up
And then we'll make the bugger's eyes water!