Going into a game against the Dallas Stars last night, despite the continued whispers of their new third jerseys operating under some bad mojo, the team appeared to be in a confident, upbeat mood, particularly with the visit of former Jacket Epsen Knutsen to the team as part of his Alumni Night appearance.
Indeed, the Jackets carried the tempo for much of the game, and played extremely well for the majority of the game....but that's not what the scoreboard reflected.
This game got physical, and it got physical fast - both sides leveled some big hits early, but Rick Nash was fighting off borderline plays from guys like Krys Barch, Adam Burish, and Steve Ott all night - all of which went uncalled. In response, the Jackets dialed their own aggression up, and not surprisingly, Jared Boll, Tom Sestito, and Derek Dorsett found themselves in and out of scrums all night, including lengthy game misconduct penalties in the third period.
But, that's not why you're reading.
You're reading because you want to hear about how Dallas could win a game where they were outshot, outchanced, outhit, out-faceoffed, and generally outplayed?
Well, in the words of the Associated Press? They had a little help.
In fact, while all credit is due to Kari Lehtonen for playing a marvelous game, and to Brad Richards for his two goals, the fact remains that the Stars had more than the benefit of the doubt from the referees - they got several game changing calls that the Jackets, sadly, were unable to overcome.
The first chain of events began a bit past the middle of the first period, when Jake Voracek was slashed in the back of the legs, shoved his attacker back in response, and was given a roughing penalty that could be called...borderline, at best. Perhaps an attempt to reign in the chippy play after a Barch / Sestito fight? Perhaps.
Then, as the Jackets' PK went to work, things got worse - Marc Methot, trying to clear Steve Ott away from the crease, was given a crosschecking penalty, putting the Jackets down by two men for over a minute.
The PK stayed solid, thanks to the Stars' habit (as helpfully pointed out to me by Tom of The Dark Blue Jacket) of shooting wide from the perimeter. In fact, things seemed to point to killing the initial penalty when, with just a few seconds left on Jake's penalty when Garon made a good save and a scrum developed in front of the net, including James Neal coming down from off the blue line, where he'd been playing the point, to get into Sammy Pahlsson's face.
Because the rules that the referees are supposedly familiar have a very specific guideline for what is supposed to happen in that situation:
Rule 76.2, paragraph 11: Following a stoppage of play, should one or both defensemen who are the point players . . . enter into the attacking zone beyond the outer edge of the end zone face-off circle during an altercation, gather or "scrum," the ensuing face-off shall take place in the neutral zone near the blue line of the defending team.
- Officiating - Enough said.
- Antoine Vermette - During warmups, I noticed that Jared Boll spent a little time around the net after most of the team skated off, tipping pucks in from the paint and the sides of the net, then shooting the last couple of loose pucks in from the slot. Maybe Vermette should take notes - he had three chances last night to put the team up, or get the tying goal, and went high or wide each time. In fact, the Rick Nash feed from behind the net I mentioned was almost a mirror image of the feed and shot he whiffed on against Roberto Luongo earlier in the week - feed from behind the net, alone in the slot, goalie went down, all he had to do was flip it in over his back, and he shot about five feet too high. Bad enough it happened once, but twice in the same week? Good god.
- Power Play - Five chances, including a two man advantage, and too much time was spent passing, and not enough shooting or generating rebounds - Kristian Huselius was particularly troublesome with this, and coughed up the puck a couple of times to the penalty killers on weak passes or bad decisions where he ran out of space.