As the Jackets searched for their first win at home, one of the threads running through the voice of the fans and outside media was "When will Rick Nash show up?"
Well, apparently that answer was tonight.
After a scoreless first period where both teams traded chances, but the Ducks outshot the Blue Jackets 12-10, the Jackets opened the second period briefly down a man due to a late interference call on Ethan Moreau.
The Jackets PK, however, was stellar, as was Steve Mason, and the game would take a twist a bit over three minutes into the period when Derek MacKenzie blocked a shot from Duck blue liner Sheldon Brookbank, skated up to grab the rebound off his own legs, and broke down the far boards. Dragging his way to center ice as he crossed into the offensive zone, he poked the puck up and over Jonas Hiller's legs and broke the scoreless tie, giving the Jackets a 1 goal lead.
Just over a minute later, with the team energized by getting their first home lead, the top line would crash down into the Duck zone and swarm around the net. Vermette would fire the puck to Huselius, who floated it back to Nash. Nash attempted a pass to Vermette, but the puck would take a bounce off a Duck skate and find its' way into the net to put the Jackets ahead 2-0.
Unfortunately, the team would take a bit of a down note a short time later when Ethan Moreau would drop to block a shot from Paul Mara and leave for the dressing room after his shift in clear pain. (Coach Arniel announced after the game that the veteran winger had his hand broken.) Forced to shuffle lines, the Jackets got into a bit of penalty trouble, but managed to hold the 2-0 lead going into the third period, limiting Anaheim to 8 shots. While the Jackets only fired 6 shots on Hiller, when you score on two of them I can't complain terribly much.
Unfortunately, the line jumbles and shifts to adjust for Moreau's injury left the Jackets looking flat in the opening of the third period, and less than a minute into the period Teemu Selanne would force a turnover from Fedor Tyutin right by the Duck bench, break past Antoine Vermette, and take Nate Guenin out of the play when he went down to attempt to block the shot, giving the Finnish Flash a clear shot at Mason's stick side, which the goaltender was unable to turn aside.
WIth the lead cut to one goal, the Ducks turned up the pressure, but ironically it would be Saku Koivu taking a penalty for interference on Kristian Huselius, opening them up for a power play just past the 14 minute mark.
The Jacket PP wasn't able to connect again tonight (though with guys like MacKenzie, Holden, and Guenin seeing a lot of time suddenly on the top PP unit, are you shocked?), but time with the man advantage and a later lengthy 4-on-4 stretch midway through the period, seemed to help the Jackets get their legs back.
It would come down to the final two minutes, with the Jackets looking to secure the first home ice win for Scott Arniel. After several near-misses, including Kristian Huselius hitting the post on a drive that had Hiller beaten, and Rusty Klesla shooting high on an open net after a big rebound, the Ducks got the puck in on Steve Mason and called a time out following another big save.
With less than 1:30 to go, Hiller made his way to the bench and the puck was battled back and forth in the Columbus zone. The Jackets were able to clear twice, but unable to take advantage of the empty net (though MacKenzie had an attempt that scooted just wide from center ice), but finally Nash was able to get the puck away from Ryan Getzlaf, skate to just past the logo at center ice, and fire the puck into the waiting maw to seal the game away with just under 30 seconds to go.
With a chance at victory (or at least a charity point) gone, the Ducks deflated, but still managed one final defiant shot on Steve Mason as time expired, which the netminder snapped up in his glove as he skated out to celebrate with his teammates.
Your final score, Jackets Win: 3-1!
Marc Methot: No, he didn't get on the score sheet. But he was responsible for shutting down Anaheim's top lines, played on the PK, played 4-on-4, and lead the team in time on ice tonight. When the team needed him, he stepped up in a big way.
Derek MacKenzie: We've been talking for the past few games about how D-Mac had been working hard and playing well. With his performance tonight, including helping to protect the lead in the final three minutes of the game, I think he's earned himself a permanent spot in Columbus this season.
Rick Nash: Not the prettiest game in the world, and neither goal is going on his personal highlight reel, but when the team needed their captain to turn in a good game tonight, he did just that.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
Penalties: It's a DAMN good thing our PK has been so good this year. The team could have easily given this game away in the second period.
Face-Offs: Derek MacKenzie was our best face-off guy tonight, winning 6 of 11. Things went downhill quickly after that - Vermette with 9 of 19, Pahlsson with 11 of 25, Brass winning 4 of 10. Also, most of our face-off wins for the entire team tonight were in the defensive or neutral zones. The Ducks were able to deny a lot of offensive chances by winning face-offs and pushing the Jackets out.
Attendance: Tonight was a team record low attendance of 9,802. Ouch. We kind of knew this might happen after the hope opening stinkbomb (and I have to admit I'm guilty, too, as I couldn't make it to tonight's game), but even on a night where the team usually has trouble drawing (Wednesdays), that's BAD.
The team will practice tomorrow and take on Calgary here at Nationwide on Friday evening.
Here's hoping that fans will make their way out for this one, or this could be the start of a bad trend.
With Moreau's injury, it will be interesting to see if the team relies on the current players in town (perhaps bringing Kyle Wilson into the lineup?), or if a forward is recalled from Springfield.