This was a true statement game.
It was a statement in that the team was playing its 1000th game in franchise history, against a divisional opponent, with a seven-game winning streak on the line.
How did they respond?
They responded by soundly defeating the Flyers 5-2 in front of an amped-up crowd, in the process leap-frogging Philadelphia in the standings for their eighth consecutive win.
Thanks to the Flyers having to play last night in the rescheduled storm game, Steve Mason was again spared the task of tending goal against his former team. On this night it was Ray Emery dueling Columbus starter Sergei Bobrovsky.
The ice was tilted in the Jackets favor for most of the opening period, with the Flyers' best chance coming midway through the period. It was a scramble in front of the net, with the puck flipped up in the air behind Bobrovsky. It appeared that the puck was never across the goal line, but nonetheless it was reviewed at the next whistle. As expected, no goal.
On the ensuing faceoff, Jack Johnson Man on Fire blasted a shot from the point, redirecting off of Luke Schenn to open the scoring.
1-0 Jackets: Johnson - Unassisted
The highlights of the remaining minutes of the opening period were limited to a squandered four minute powerplay by the Jackets, a man advantage where they looked flat. The Jackets earned another powerplay late in the first after the Flyers were whistled for way, way, way too much man. Nothing doing though.
The Flyers started the second period like a team that was on a mission. At the end of a shift, Ryan Murray committed a turnover at the allied blueline, allowing Brayden Schenn to skate in on Bobrovsky. Schenn fired a shot, saved by Bob, but he never gave up, depositing his own rebound into the net to tie the game.
1-1: Schenn - Unassisted.
Unfazed, the Jackets deployed their fourth line of Corey Tropp, Derek MacKenzie and Mark Letestu. This trio was making a huge impact all night, forcing turnovers, sparking their teammates, and generally creating havoc. The Jackets will have a very difficult decision on who to sit when Marian Gaborik returns.
The Flyers pressed on, and earned themselves a powerplay when R.J. Umberger was sent to the box for high-sticking. The Flyers were hungry, and took the lead off the stick of Vincent Lecavalier, who one-timed a shot from near the left dot
2-1 Flyers: Lecavalier - Streit, Meszaros
The aforementioned fourth line was at it again after going down a goal, this time contributing to the offense. In the midst of a change, Tropp got the puck in deep, with Artem Anisimov gathering the puck near the goal line. MacKenzie hustled in, calling for the puck, and making no mistake when it was placed on his stick.
2-2: MacKenzie - Anisimov, Tropp
A few minutes later I, along with anybody else watching the FSOhio broadcast, were treated to an extended look at a powerplay with the behind-the-net camera. With a team on the powerplay, it's (in my opinion) the most exciting camera angle, especially when a team is firing shot, after shot, after shot...
...which was exactly what the Jackets were doing. They were peppering Emery, and it was so exciting to see the team so clearly dominating and pushing for the lead. Fans weren't let down, with James Wisniewski eventually sending a shot off the skate of Matt Calvert, behind Emery.
3-2 Jackets: Calvert - Wisniewski, Dubinsky
The Jackets were forced to kill a two-man advantage late in the period, but otherwise they had taken control of the game going into the second intermission.
With all four lines clicking, and the Jackets keeping the Flyers firmly on the ropes, the home team scored to go up by two off the stick of Brandon Dubinsky.
4-2 Jackets: Dubinsky - Calvert, Tyutin
The Jackets went back to the powerplay in the first half of the period after Scott Hartnell was called for boarding, and despite many chances they were unable to pot another powerplay marker. Just one second after the penalty expired though, Nathan Horton, the apparent magic elixir for the Jackets, fired home the dagger with a beauty of a goal, going inside-out on Andrei Meszaros.
5-2 Jackets: Horton - Murray
The Jackets held on for the rest of regulation. A huge win, on a huge night.
FINAL SCORE: 5-2 Jackets
1) On the night of the franchise's 1000th game, first standard bearer goes to Mr. Mac
2) The fourth line not only did its job tonight, the trio was a complete difference maker.
3) Horton. Dubi. Bob. Who else you want?
BOTTOM OF THE BARREL
1) It's too bad we couldn't see Mason in the Philly net. Maybe in the playoffs?
ADVANCED STATS FOR THE GAME: EXTRA SKATER
The Jackets are back in action on Saturday, where they'll face the Sabres.