After a rough night at home, the Jackets flew to Minnesota overnight, and the question from Jackets fans was "How will this team respond?"
I hate to destroy your suspense, but the answer was "Surprisingly well!"
I was away from the game for the first two periods, relying on gamecenter and the twitter commentary of the Blue Jackets fandom. It actually worked pretty well - if you're away from Columbus for some reason on a game day, try it out.
Perhaps the best way to describe the first period is "Stifling." Denying Minnesota the puck, the Jackets delivered 10 shots against Nicklas Backstrom, while allowing only two to reach Mathieu Garon.
Despite that, the Jackets couldn't beat the Finnish netminder until nearly three quarters of the way through the first period. Chris Clark and Derek MacKenzie battled with Cam Barker and Justin Falk around the Wild net for the puck, then Clark sent the puck backwards to a waiting Kris Russell. Russell fired a bullet that rang off the iron, but unlike last night's game, a Jacket was waiting for that rebound. Derek Dorsett redirected the rebound back at the open side of the net, and the Jackets took a 1-0 lead that would hold through the end of the first period.
In the second period, the Wild came out swinging, and the general consensus of both CBJ fans and Hockey Wilderness was that Todd Richards said something or over to fire the team up, and the Wild generally out-chanced the Jackets down low.
After sending Kristian Huselius to the box for a hook, the Wild moved the puck well against the Jackets PK, finally tying the game after a long shot bounced around the boards, Brent Burns fired the puck at the side of the net, and the puck bounced in off Garon's leg pad. However, it would be the Jackets taking a 2-1 lead after a Cam Barker penalty lead to a Derek MacKenzie goal just after the power play expired. Derick Brassard set up a beautiful pass to the gritty fourth liner, who fired a slap shot that found its' way home.
The Jackets seemed to get some momentum behind them, but the Wild found another bit of puck-luck late in the second as the Jackets started to relax. Matt Cullen took the puck from behind the Columbus net, passing to Martin Havlat, who fired in at Garon. The rebound bounced into the slot, and Cal Clutterbuck was waiting after being left alone by callup Nate Guenin.
The Jackets would be outshot 9-12 in the second period, and the teams opened the third tied 2-2.
The Wild seemed to think that tying the game was all they needed to do - and the Jackets got early shots in as a result, but neither team could take an advantage before Fedor Tyutin was whistled for a....questionable...interference call on Eric Nystrom. (Personally, I think he timed the hit pretty much perfectly, but the ref felt it was early.)
The Jackets PK, however, was not having it. Chris Clark would bang the puck off the boards and into neutral ice, R. J. Umberger would spring on it and charge, unchallenged, in to the Wild zone, and drove on Backstrom one on one. Waiting until he was right in the crease, Umberger whacked the puck into the net under Backstrom's legs, and after a lengthy review, the goal would stand - Umberger's third goal and second shorthanded tally of the season, and a 3-2 Jackets lead.
From there, it was time to slam the door, and the Jackets did so, though there were a few heartstopping moments in the final 30 seconds with Minnesota pulling Backstrom for the extra skater, and the Blue Jackets unable to clear the zone. At one point, it appeared that Brent Burns had tied the game with a few seconds remaining, but the net had been dislodged by Burns' crash into the crease, and the goal was immediately waved off.
Despite a fierce Wild attack (4 of their 9 shots in the 3rd frame came in the final minute), Garon was able to make the critical saves when asked, and the Jackets skated off Xcel energy ice with their second win of the season.
Mathieu Garon: I think he'd like that fluky first goal back, but Garon protected the lead when asked, and gave the team the chance to win.
Chris Clark: Two big assists, and he spent a quarter of his ice time tonight on the PK. I'm still not convinced Clark is an every night guy for the Jackets (he had the lowest ice time of all CBJ players dressed tonight), but more efforts like this and I'll happily change my mind. (Clark also scored his 200th and 201st career points in the win tonight.)
R. J. Umberger: No horrible turnovers, and his second shorty in two games? Well done. If he keeps this up, Chuck Norris will get an R.J. Umberger tattoo.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
Penalty Trouble: After cutting down to only two penalties, the Jackets were whistled for six tonight, including a pretty lazy hook by Clark less than a minute after the team had taken the 3-2 lead.
Kristian Huselius: A lazy penalty, his scoring streak snapped, and no shots on goal despite three minutes of power play time. In his defense, the Wild clearly put an emphasis on shutting down the top lines, but he's also being paid to win through those kind of odds.
Sammy Pahlsson: Not a good night for Pahlsson, either, who was on the ice for the Clutterbuck goal, took a weak interference call, and struggled in the faceoff dot. Maybe all those Finns on the Wild gave the Swedes a case of the Scandinavian shakes.
All in all, though, it's the fourth game of the regular season, and the Jackets are 2-2. I'm OK with that. They needed to respond from a bad loss with a good win, and that's just what they did, even if it was something of an ugly one.
The Jackets fly back to Columbus tonight, and will be back in action on Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks. The puck drops at 7:00pm - here's hoping the team can pick up their first home win.