The Jackets have never won in the Wells-Fargo Center. Not once.
The Jackets weren't quite in a "win or die" situation against Philadelphia tonight, but a win would not only give them breathing room in the Wild Card race, but keep them alive (in theory) for a Metropolitan divisional berth. After the frustrations of Tuesday's game against Colorado, the lineup was shuffled to bring R.J. Umberger and Nick Schultz back in.
Things started rough - Columbus was killing a penalty within a minute of the puck being dropped - and spent most of the first period reacting rather than acting, though the club found several opportunities to pressure Steve Mason, in particular a Nick Foligno rush that went just wide after breaking through the Flyer defense.
After a scoreless first, the Jackets tried to make an impact in the second, but the Flyers pushed hard, and left Columbus with rare-counterattacks, while Sergei Bobrovsky was required to be sharp. After killing another power play and weathering 15 shots, Sean Couturier took a slashing call, and the increasingly frazzled looking Jackets got an opportunity to try and get their offense going.
In honesty? The power play didn't look that great - struggling with holding the puck in the zone, unable to find good lanes through the Philly PK...and then something happened. In the dying seconds of the power play, Fedor Tyutin and Mark Letestu cycled the puck down to James Wisniewski, who had pinched down to the net and was able to shovel the puck past Steve Mason for the first goal of the game, and a 1-0 lead that would hold through the end of the period, despite being outshot 27-18.
As the third period began, more than a few fans had visions of the team's epic third period collapse from their last visit to Philadelphia, and I'm sure that more than a few people on the bench were saying "Not this time."
The next goal was huge - and the Jackets found it.
James Wisnewski slid the puck across the blue line to Cam Atkinson, who unloaded a booming shot that would deflect off of Brandon Dubinsky's skate at the front of the net and through Mason's five hole.
The Flyers pushed back, hard, but Bob found the saves (with a few timely assists here and there from the guys in front of him), to keep things under control. Unfortunately, a sour note came late in the period when Nick Foligno had to leave the game due to an injury - at this point all we know is that it was "lower body", and that he'll be evaluated tomorrow.
With just under three minutes, the Flyers made the decision to call Mason to the bench for the extra attacker, but still couldn't find a way past Bob. The Jackets attempted to capitalize on the empty net, but settled for pushing the puck around and forcing Philadelphia to keep backing off and trying to re-enter. With thirty seconds to go, finally, Matt Calvert broke out and drew a slashing penalty from Claude Giroux as he attempted to drive to the net. That power play forced Philly to put Mason back in and basically sealed the game, and in a few seconds, the buzzer sounded to deliver a much needed win.
Final Score: Jackets 2 - Flyers 0
- Sergei Bobrovsky - There's no doubt that the team wanted to get this win for Bob, but Bob did a lot to earn it himself. Stopping 37 shots and keeping his cool despite the heat from his former team, this game was on his shoulders, and he earned every minute of it.
- Cam Atkinson - He finally got a bit of puck-luck with Dubi deflecting his shot in front of the net, but Cam was hustling all night. After his long stretch of scratches, he's been a big difference the last few games.
- Matt Calvert - Matty Ice was under the Flyers' skin all night, and that last penalty he drew was just huge.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Fourth Line Headaches - Usually our fourth line is a strength, but tonight they felt overmatched by the Philadelphia top line, and Bob had to make a couple of "miracle" saves to keep them from being burned.
- Faceoffs - The team was, as a whole, awful at the dot. If they'd been able to keep possession a few more times, perhaps this game wouldn't have been quite so much of a nail biter.
- The Boston Bruins - Back to back losses against Detroit and Toronto. You had ONE job...
The Jackets will be diminished with the loss of Foligno, especially if he'll be out more than a few games, but the news that Ryan Murray may be back in tomorrow is a big relief.
The bad news is that they've got to take on the Blackhawks tomorrow, but the good news is that this team is still in a playoff position, and now sit just two points back of the Flyers for that third place spot. Maybe Philly will hang in. Maybe Toronto will keep pushing. But if this team can find a few more wins like this? They're going to be OK.