After taking over 2nd place in the Metro on Thursday, the Blue Jackets slid back into the wild card spot thanks to Philadelphia's victory over Pittsburgh earlier today.
With the Minnesota Wild locked in a playoff chase of their own, both teams were looking for points at any cost, and they played like it.
Both Sergei Bobrovsky and Darcy Kuemper were lights out in the first period, with Bob getting one stunning moment of luck when Jason Pominville had a wide open net on the doorstep, but rang the shot off the post.
Each goaltender would make solid saves in the first period, including Minnesota's first power play of the night, but ended the first period in a 0-0 tie, and that scoreless tie would last through almost the entire second period...when things changed.
As the final minute of play ticked down, Jack Johnson dug the puck out of the end boards in the Minnesota zone before swinging up towards the blue line. Feeding the puck over to Dalton Prout, his new D partner cranked a one timer that found a way through traffic (including a couple of Minnesota sticks) to slip past Kuemper for the opening goal.
Unfortunately, the recent theme of leads slipping away in the early third period reared it's ugly head again - this time thanks to a miscommunication between Prout and Johnson that saw Zach Parise slip behind the Columbus net and feed the puck to a wide open Pominville, who didn't miss his second chance.
With the game tied once again, both teams went into "Prevent" mode - neither squad registered double digits on the third period shot clock - and tie ticked agonizingly away towards the end of regulation.
Columbus had one real scare late in the period when Nathan Horton flipped a puck back towards an unprepared Bobrovsky, but the Vezina winner managed to freeze it before it slipped through or a Minnesota skater could capitalize on it.
Once in OT, each team had a couple of rushes, but nothing really concrete came of it. Columbus' best chance came when Jack Johnson lead a coast-to-coast rush that took the Wild by surprise, but after finally getting the puck to Matt Calvert down low he couldn't pull the trigger.
Five minutes passed all too quickly, and Columbus would face their second shootout in a row.
That meant that Artem Anisimov went over the boards with Columbus' hopes on his stick, and Mr. New Dad took care of business, keeping the shootout going, and the Jackets alive.
Pominville attempted to finish the game, but Bob found a key save, which meant that Mark Letestu could force extra shooters. Going wide, he slid down through the right side of the ice before cutting across and finding a gap.
Rallying from the 2-0 deficit, the Columbus bench was energized, and that clearly resonated with their goaltender, who made a toe save on Matt Moulson in the first round of extra shooters, and that meant that Ryan Johansen had the game on his stick.
Changing up his speed as he attacked the net, he stickhandled in a beautiful arc around Kuemper's attempted poke check, then tucked it home past the sprawling goaltender.
Even as he turned with a wide smile to meet his celebrating teammates, though, things changed to confusion as one of the referees skated over to argue that Johan had "double touched" the puck after the pokecheck attempt. The goal would be sent to the War Room in Toronto, where they determined that Johansen never lost control of the puck, calling it a good goal.
The celebrations resumed on the Columbus bench, and both Johan and Bob got their share of hugs and manly back slaps for their efforts to secure two huge points.
Final Score: Jackets 2 - Wild 1 (SO)
- Sergei Bobrovsky - No Bob, no win. More than a few people have been saying it on Twitter already, but it's still true.
- The Energy Line - Letestu, Tropp, and Mackenzie were out at key points in the game. They never stopped pushing the Wild, and met the challenge of Minnesota's top line head on.
- The Shootout - The last time a team came back from a 2-0 deficit and won the shootout was Buffalo over Montreal back in 2011. Over three years ago. It's pretty much a given in the NHL that if you go down 2-0, you're screwed. Yet the Jackets defied that. Incredible.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Prevent Defense - Don't get me wrong, both goalies were amazing in this game, but it feels like way too much of this game was played not to lose, rather than looking to win.
- Third Period Slips - Second game in a row this team has let a third period lead go. That's a habit that can't continue.
- Pittsburgh Penguins - Really, guys? Really? 4-0 loss to Steve Mason? Thanks for the help, schmucks.
The good news is that right now, the Jackets are back into the 2nd place slot in the Metro. The bad news is that Philly, Pittsburgh, Jersey, and New York will all play before Columbus takes on the Hurricanes Tuesday.
14 games to the finish line. Every one matters. Every point is important.
The playoffs have already started - and the Jackets are rising to the challenge.