After a frustrating loss to Dallas, it was time for the Jackets to look for another home win - and looking to win in regulation for the first time since beating the Rangers at Nationwide over a week ago.
With Scott Arniel reworking the lines and Calgary coming on the second night of a back to back, would it be enough?
From the start of the game, the Jackets came out skating hard, and trading a few early back and forth rushes. The game seemed to be turning in the Jackets favor when Tim Jackman came out and challenged Jared Boll to a scrap, and Boller handed the Calgary winger his head - dominating the fight from the start, getting a bunch of shots in, and eventually sending Jackman off to the Flames' locker room for repairs, the top half of his formerly white jersey covered, Jackson Pollock style, with his own blood.
A few minutes later the Jackets' new second line of R.J. Umberger, Derick Brassard, and Jakub Voracek trapped the Flames checking line in their own zone, starting with a good cycle from Anton Stralman up at the blue line, then over to Derick Brassard, who looked for an opportunity down low before sending the puck to Marc Methot.
Methot would get the puck over to Jake Voracek in the high slot, who curled into the middle of the ice before firing the puck past Karlsson, shooting it past the Calgary Netminder's stick for Columbus' first lead in their last five games.
Despite another fight between Tom Sestito and Robyn Regehr, and the teams trading abbreviated power plays, the Jackets maintained good pressure and left the ice with the 1-0 lead, outshooting Calgary and dominatng 70%-30% in the faceoff circle.
In the second period, the Jackets managed some good early pressure, but Henrik Karlsson was up to the challenge, making several impressive saves, while the Jackets found a bit of good luck when former Blue Jacket Curtis Glencross got loose and fired a shot that beat Garon, but rang off the crossbar and fell safely away from the net.
After getting a bit of good luck defensively, the Jackets would find a metaphorical penny offensively, and the fourth line would pick it up.
Following an offensive zone faceoff win by Kyle Wilson, the puck would float back to Jan Hejda, who fired a shot from the blue line in on Karlsson. Wilson would attempt to get to the puck while Karlsson went down to cover up, but the puck would squirt free to Tom Sestito, who bounced it off the post from below the goal line, and Jared Boll was able to grab the rebound and fire it into a wide open net for the 2-0 lead.
From there, despite Calgary finally getting a puck past Garon on the power play after Antoine Vermette went to the box late in the second period, the game was essentially decided.
The Jackets would find themselves unable to connect on a third period power play, and Calgary would go dry on a late too many men penalty by the Jackets with just over four minutes to go in the regulation.
The clincher came with less than a minute left, and the Flames' net open for the extra attacker. Rostislav Klesla would beat Jarome Iginla to a Jay Bouwmeester pass deep in his own zone and slap the puck back up the ice, and it would roll into the empty net untouched for the 3-1 lead with just under 30 seconds left in the game.
Final Score: Jackets 3 - Flames 1
- Jared Boll - I'll be honest, I questioned the wisdom of fighting Jackman so early in the game, with the Jackets already pushing the Flames back offensively, but his fight really seemed to spark the boys in blue, and his goal was a great example of hard work around the net. Shame he couldn't grab an assist to finish off the Gordie Howe. Even more impressive when you consider that he did it all with just under five minutes of ice time.
- Mathieu Garon - Making some big stops at key times (and there was very little he could have done against Jokinen's snapshot goal), Garon shut down 29 of 30 shots, including a huge stop on a shorthanded 2 on 1 late in the first period. Great performance to help keep the team settled down and comfortable with his play.
- Jake Voracek - In addition to getting off his 13 game slide with the opening goal, Jake spent a lot of time hustling up the ice and keeping his skates moving - I thought the chemistry shown by the new second line was very promising.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Antoine Vermette - Nothing too bad - Vermette was actually great in the faceoff dot tonight - but he had a few chances that he couldn't convert, and a just plain bad luck moment when Karlsson was able to put a poke check on him after Vermette grabbed a long rebound off the end boards and beat the defense.
- Second Period Slump - Unlike Saturday, where the Jackets came out swinging after Dallas' first goal, the Jackets deflated a bit tonight when Calgary scored in the second period, and let the Flames carry the play for the remainder of the period and a bit of the early third.
Really, if those are the worst things I am complaining about after a win, I'd say things went OK tonight. The team needed this - it was way past time they get rewarded for better play over the last week. Even better, they did it with secondary scoring, something that has been noticeably absent the last few games. Here's hoping it sticks around!
The Jackets improved to 17-13-3, and will be back in action Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks. The puck drops at 7pm.