Game 49 Recap: Lucky Number Seven

Kirk Irwin

Things started rough for the Blue Jackets, but a two goal outburst late in the second period gave them the boost they needed to beat the LA Kings for their record setting 7th consecutive win.

I'm not even sure how to process this one, honestly.

Things certainly didn't start well. The Jackets were in the box for a penalty less than ten seconds into the game after Matt Calvert was called for cross checking after he got into a pushing match with Trevor Lewis at the faceoff dot. The Jackets managed to kill that penalty, but Dwight King would open the scoring on the following shift when he picked up the rebound from Lewis' shot on Sergei Bobrovsky and deposited it into the net.

Insult was added to injury when Ryan Johansen was sent to the box on a crosschecking minor a minute later, but this time Bob and the PK stood to the challenge, and the entire team seemed to draw some energy from the kill. After spending far too much time reacting to the Kings and chasing the puck, the Jackets started to put a bit of offensive pressure on Martin Jones, finally drawing a power play of their own when Boone Jenner drove to the net and was knocked over by Jake Muzzin to prevent what likely would have been a tap-in goal off of Nathan Horton's pass.

The suddenly clicking power play went to work, and didn't need much time to make the Kings pay. The Controlled Chaos factored in once again, paying forward on Craig Hartsburg's faith once again. R.J. Umberger cycled the puck up to Jack Johnson after a near miss on the net, and #7 would control the puck on the blue line and set up James Wisniewski for a point shot, where Umberger was waiting to redirect it into the net.

The Kings looked for an opportunity to break through again, particularly when Artem Anisimov was boxed for delay of game after putting the puck over the glass, but the Jackets kept to their game plan, pushing the Kings out of their shooting lanes and working hard to pursue to the puck.

That effort paid off late in the period, and the fans got a nice glimpse of the future for this team when James Wisniewski took the puck behind his own net and sent it to Ryan Murray at the top of the zone. The 2012 #2 overall pick sent a picture perfect breakout pass to Ryan Johansen, who slid into the offensive zone like a knife between the ribs, popping the water bottle with a nasty wrist shot to give the Jackets a 2-1 lead with less than a minute to play in the period.

That 2-1 lead held into the first intermission, and the Jackets drew another power play, but couldn't find a way through Jones.

The momentum seemed to be building for Columbus, but things took a sudden swing when a Matt Calvert turnover in the neutral zone lead to Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Matt Frattin dashing back up ice on a three on one.

RIchards and Carter played a little catch, and Carter was able to cut across the crease and pop it through Bobrovsky for the tying goal, because the hockey gods are nothing if not sadistic.

That streak cuts both ways, though, because the Jackets would get a bit of divine providence late in the period, when R. J. Umberger fired a shot from the far wall that seemed like it was going wide, but Jones' attempt to glove it away backfired when the puck went off of his glove and into the net to give Columbus back their lead with 1:45 left in the frame.

The Jackets, however, weren't done.

As the period ticked away, Boone Jenner got things started by sending a nice pass up to Artem Anisimov at the top of the zone, who headed up ice with Nathan Horton. Arty waited for the right moment, then sent a pass to Horton as they crossed through the slot, and #8 snapped the puck home with fifteen seconds left for his third goal of the season.

The Kings were unsurprisingly a bit shell shocked, and more than a few fans wondered if Darryl Sutter might put Jonathan Quick out for the third period, but Jones lead his team back out onto the ice once more, and repaid his coach's faith with some fairly impressive stops, including holding his net against six shots by the Columbus power play after Brandon Dubinsky drew a cross checking call on Drew Doughty.

As the final period ticked down, there were several moments where the Jackets seemed content to let the Kings control the pace, but some excellent shifts from the fourth line provided a much needed spark, including a beautiful near-goal-experience when Mark Letestu got a feed from Corey Tropp with a wide open net, but couldn't quite settle the puck down for a shot.

There were a few more gut clenching moments, but fans in Nationwide and around the interwebs were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief when AA made something beautiful happen.

Stealing the puck away from Richards, Anisimov chipped the puck in deep to Nick Foligno, then turned himself back around and drove through the collapsing Kings, taking the puck back with a nice return pass from Foligno and tucking the puck in at the far corner for the 5-2 lead.

Robin Regehr would score one last goal for the Kings on a delayed penalty, but the Jackets still had a comfortable cushion to ride out the last few minutes of regulation, though they did make a heroic effort to set Umby up for a hat trick. Unfortunately, a combination of shot blocking, near misses, and one bad bounce kept him from being able to cash in, but I think he consoled himself fairly well with two more points and what has become a franchise record winning streak.

Final Score: Jackets 5 - Kings 3

Standard Bearers:

  • Nathan Horton - It sure doesn't feel like he's only scored three goals since his return. Once again he delivered a big goal, which would stand up as the eventual GWG.
  • R.J. Umberger - After a season that had fans calling for a trade - if not a buyout - Umby's rejuvenated himself with Foligno and Johansen. His second goal was a pretty ludicrous event, but the first one was a direct result of doing the work and putting himself where he needed to be. (Oh, and did we mention he's leading the team in power play goals?)
  • Ryan Murray - Dat Pass.
  • Artem Anisimov - AA seemed to find an extra gear after being named to Team Russia, and tonight was no exception. He delivered the insurance goal, but he was also winning faceoffs, playing strong on the puck, and continuing to click with Jenner and Horton.
Bottom of the Barrel:
  • Slow Feet - Far too much of the third period was spent with the Jackets looking around rather than pushing the play. Honestly, our friend @RedditCBJ nailed it when he said that if there had been two bad bounces, the game easily could have been tied. Can't get lazy with a lead.
  • Injuries - Matt Calvert took a shot off the leg in the third period and looked like he was still feeling the pain on his next few shifts. Hopefully it's just a stinger and he'll be fine for Thursday.
  • The Mighty Metro - Oh, now all you guys are winning, huh? The Jackets are still 'above the bar', but if the other teams in the division not named after arctic fowl keep winning as well, this is going to be a dog fight all the way to the finish.
On the eve of their 1000th franchise game, the Blue Jackets are in a playoff position and setting franchise records with stellar play both at the team and individual levels, but perhaps the best thing about tonight's victory is the attitude coming from the locker room. When guys like Richards, Horton, and Umberger talk in post-game interviews / pressers about not being satisfied, that's exciting. They know that there's more to do, and that they can be better.

That attitude, and the efforts that come with it, are going to pay off. Not just this season, but in the years to come. We kept asking when this team was going to turn the corner. Finally, we have an answer.

49 games down. 33 to go.

Here's to taking the next step.
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