The Jackets did themselves no favors on the first step of their Western Canada road trip, going down 2-0 to the Flames in under five minutes.
However, after a goalie swap, the team battled their way back with a shorthanded goal and a power play tally to force OT, but could not seize the second point.
There's no way to describe the start of the game aside from awful. After winning the opening faceoff and getting the first shot of the game on Miikka Kiprusoff, the Jackets allowed the Flames to take over, unable to establish any kind of forecheck or puck control, and the Flames quickly made them pay for it - taking their puck up from behind their own net, Mark Giordano sent a pass from the Flames' goal line out to center ice, where Mikael Backlund was able to maneuver the puck past Chris Clark and enter the zone untouched before feeding a wide open Jarome Iginla, left totally uncovered by Jan Hejda and Fedor Tyutin, who wristed the puck past Steve Mason's glove side.
Things went from bad to worse just two minutes later when the Flames made another end to end play, starting with a breakout by Niklas Hagman, who snapped up a loose puck near the top of Calgary's zone, then skipped it to an Anton Babchuk, who slid past Antoine Vermette. Babchuk got the puck back to Hagman at the top of the Jackets' zone, who then fed Brendan Morrison coming down the left side boards, and the veteran forward fired a puck that Steve Mason tried to stop, but he'd slid too far to the side anticipating the shot, and it slid past his outstretched toe pad and into the net.
Scott Arniel had seen enough at that point, calling to an end for his starter's evening and putting Mathieu Garon into the net.
Garon was forced to make several more rough saves as the team tried to get itself back into competition, but it would take most of the first and second periods before they really started to skate, and a bit of luck to get them onto the board.
While killing a penalty to Tom Sestito for hooking, Mike Commodore cleared the puck down into the Calgary end, and Andrew Murray took advantage of a lazy attempt to get the puck back by Alex Tanguay, beating him to the puck and skating it around the boards behind the Flames' net, then finding Antoine Vermette at the left faceoff circle with a no-look pass that he quickly snapped back at a surprised Kiprusoff, beating him glove side to bring the Jackets within one.
Turning up the pressure in the third period, the Flames looked increasingly desperate under a heavy barrage of shots before the Jackets finally received their first (and only) power play of the evening, a hooking call on Adam Pardy.
They didn't need long to sieze the opportunity. Cycling the puck, Antoine Vermette passed the puck from the side boards up to Kris Russell, who faked a shot that froze the Calgary PK for a heartbeat while the puck traveled to Rick Nash. The Captain unloaded a fierce shot from the left faceoff dot that tucked itself past Kipper for the tying score with just over four minutes to go in the game.
Securing a point that allowed them to keep pace with the pack in the West, the Jackets tried to hammer down the second in OT, but it would be Calgary who came out on top when they cycled in the Jackets zone with just over a minute left in extra time, and a bouncing rebound from a Mark Giordano shot was picked up by Alex Tanguay, who threaded a pass behind him to a once again left WIDE OPEN Jarome Iginla, who was able to fire into an open net, with Garon out of position from covering Tanguay, having expected a stuff attempt at the side of the net.
Final Score: Flames 3 - Jackets 2 (OT)
- Mathieu Garon - It's not easy to come into a game with the play already against you, and gut out the rest of regulation. He was out of position on the OT winner, but until then he'd played a sparkling game, making some big stops to help restore the team's confidence.
- Andrew Murray - Vermette scored the opening goal. Murray made it happen. FANTASTIC hustle.
- Rick Nash - Another clutch goal and a team leading 5 shots. These are the kind of performances, even in defeat, that we needed to see.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Steve Mason - The first goal that went in was as much (or more) a defensive breakdown. The second goal was all him. After turning in a great game on Saturday, this was a huge letdown.
- Jan Hejda / Fedor Tyutin - Hejda and Tyutin were on the ice for all three Calgary goals, and each time they let the eventual goal-scorer skate into open ice completely uncovered. I have no idea what they were thinking when they decided Iginla wasn't an offensive threat.
- R.J. Umberger - It pains me to say this, but Umby looked awfully flat, and he got skated around pretty cleanly by the Iginla line for their goals, too. Vermette also had a weak game, but he was saved from the bottom by his scoring tonight.
All things considered, if you took away that first five minutes, the Jackets were the better team tonight - and probably deserved a win. With the first five minutes, though, it's remarkable that they didn't get blown right back out again.
Disappointing ending tonight, but I think the push back to get that OT point was a positive. With 34 points, they're still very much in the mix in the West - but 35 would have allowed them to leapfrog Chicago and St. Louis in the Central Division. A missed opportunity.
The Jackets flew to Vancouver after the game, and will take on the Canucks Wednesday night at 10pm from Rogers Place, formerly GM place, formerly Hockey Canada Place, formerly Would You Just Settle On A Damn Name Already Place.