On the heels of a dramatic 3-2 shootout victory over the Red Wings, the Jackets went into Detroit for the rubber match, with both sides still looking for more.
What ensued was probably one of the most dramatic and exciting games of the season, so of course I missed it. Thank goodness for the replay...
The Jackets got things rolling the right way, with the top line of Rick Nash, Jakub Voracek, and Derick Brassard causing havoc around the Detroit net in the first 30 seconds.
After Brassard won a faceoff in the Detroit zone, the puck went straight to Nash, who fired a fast wrist shot that Joey MacDonald just knocked aside with his glove. Jake took the puck and fired again, rebounding off MacDonald's pads as he splayed out, and Brassard was able to grab the puck and drag it in front of the crease, flipping it into the back of the net as he was knocked down on the play for a 1-0 lead.
A few minutes later, the top line would set up another goal, this time with Nash taking the puck behind the Detroit goal, making a good pass to Voracek despite him getting mugged by Ruslan Salei and Kris Draper,and Jake got the puck to Grant Clitsome, who used his furious shot to find the back of the net for the second time in as many nights.
Steve Mason made some good saves in an early penalty kill, but was beaten twice late in the first period - the first off a Marc Methot turnover as he attempted to carry the puck into Detroit's zone that would spring Todd Bertuzzi and Valtteri Filppula on a two one one break that Kris Russell was unable to disrupt, and the other on a shot from Drew Miller at the back of the zone, behind the goal line, that went off Derick Brassard's skate and into the net.
The Jackets, however, did not back down. Early in the second period, Jan Hejda sprung Jake Voracek and Matt Calvert from deep within the Jackets zone, and Jake got the puck clear to Calvert with speed. The rookie didn't need any more encouragement as he drove in on MacDonald like a missile, scoring his second NHL goal in a much more conventional (if equally dramatic) manner than his first.
Unfortunately, Detroit would strike not once but twice in the second, with Ericsson scoring on a stuff play around the net that I think may have also bounced off a defender (not sure, and the camera angles weren't what you'd call ideal), while Brian Rafalski took a long shot off the rush that squeezed through Mason's leg pads.
Last season...hell, even this season, the team might have shut down after the fourth goal, but instead the Jackets brought themselves back again, this time with R.J. Umberger stuffing in the rebound of a Tyutin shot on the power play.
Detroit answered back when Kris Draper gobbled up a rebound off a Mason kick save and fired it into the net, but Rick Nash tied the game up late in the third period with a beauty of a shot that ripped through more traffic than Lane Avenue on a football Saturday.
Nash even appeared, for a brief time, to have the game won with just a few seconds left in regulation, when he made a wraparound stuff attempt that appeared to have crossed the goal line before MacDonald got his leg down on it, but there was not conclusive evidence of a goal on video review.
In the overtime, sadly, the Jackets could not find one last goal - Detroit got good early pressure, and after Henrik Zetterberg rang a shot off the post, he collected his own rebound and got it to Johan Franzen, who beat Mason cleanly with a quick wrist shot from the top of the slot.
Final Score: Jackets 5 - Detroit 6 (OT)
Even in a loss, this game was positive. Yes, Mason let in 6 goals, but there were two bad redirects by his own defense, and two major defensive lapses. The only one I really put on Mase's shoulders was the Draper goal. He needed to swallow that puck, and instead he kicked it right into Draper's tape.
But the team kept skating. They tied it up - they put the pressure on Detroit, and they pulled a point out despite the second night of a back to back, in Detroit's barn, and with some great offensive pressure.
If I had to yell about one big mistake (and our D made plenty of them), it was the fact that Drew Miller ran roughshod over the Jackets for the second night in a row. Given the way he made the D look silly on Friday, there should have been a more engaged effort to contain him on Saturday. Instead, he walked away with a three point night.
- Rick Nash - Speaking of three point nights (and very nearly a four pointer), plus leading the team with seven shots on goal? Yeah, I have a feeling that the Captain had some of his own money on the board last night.
- Matt Calvert - Jesus, what hustle. If the play of Calvert with Voracek on his breakaway goal wasn't a reason to give him a look for some more minutes, I don't know what was.
- Grant Clitsome - "The Clitter", or whatever his brilliantly offensive nickname will end up being, did a great job keeping the puck in motion to make plays or take shots at the net. I hate to second guess the team, but I'm starting to think that he should have been up here back in December.
- Derick Brassard - A strong night from Brassard, including winning 5 of his 7 offensive faceoffs, and 8 of his 14 total draws.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Marc Methot - Some bad turnovers and getting straight up outskated twice. Methot's human, and he's been one of the better guys on the blue line, but he couldn't have had a worse night for a bad game.
- Kristian Huselius - 2 shots on goal, -2, and no points tonight. For someone whose primary asset is his offense, it takes a strange kind of gift to go totally pointless on a night where the top 6 combined for 11 points.
- Sammy Pahlsson - Our shutdown checking line center was a -2 and played all of 11 minutes. This team NEEDS Pahlsson to be a reliable option - if he can't, that's a huge problem.
All things considered, three points and a bit of luck this weekend cut the deficit between the Jackets and the Blackhawks down to 6 points, compared to the 9 that it was on Thursday night. They're still in this race, and they need lots more wins than losses if they're going to have a prayer, but the counter-punches the team threw last night were a big step in the right direction.
The Jackets will practice in Columbus tomorrow before hitting the road to the Sunshine state, taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday evening.