One of the big questions for this game against the Florida Panthers was how the Jackets would deal with the back to back, and at first, it didn't appear it would be pretty.
But then, just like that, the Jackets delivered a surprise...
With Steve Mason given the start tonight, things started off on a bad foot, as the obviously fatigued Jackets got jumped early and hard by the rested and ready Panthers. Pounced on early, the Panthers aggressively pursued the puck and kept the Jackets trapped deep in their zone
After nearly three minutes of constant barrage, David Booth would open the scoring, taking the puck in the slot from a Mike Santorelli rebound and snapping a shot past Mason through traffic - Mase made the first stop on Santorelli, but his defense (Tyutin and Methot) were trapped, unable to to get out to clear the puck away.
Outshot 10-2 in the next five minutes, the Panthers would add insult to injury with Radek Dvorak firing a long shot that bounced off Steve Mason's shoulder to land in the crease, and Corey Stillman, behind Mason and in front of the net, tapped it in. (Also, why is Stillman behind Mason NOT interference, when Chris Clark standing in front of Roloson was last night? Ah, well...)
The Panthers would continue to batter at Mason, but he shook off the Florida goals to start making solid saves, trapping and controlling the puck rather than kicking out more rebounds, and the Jackets drew additional energy off a good penalty kill following Brassard going to the box for a hold.
Late in the first, Fedor Tyutin would grab the puck at the top of the Panthers' zone, intercepting a clearing attempt, and fired a long slow slap shot that skidded in along the ice and snuck past Tomas Vokoun's left leg pad, giving the Jackets life and cutting the deficit in half just before the end of the period.
The Jackets came out with more jump in the second period, amplified by a Jared Boll / Darcy Hordichuk scrap in which defense was optional, and appeared to tie it near the end of the frame after several back and fourth power play opportunities when Derick Brassard scooped up a Jake Voracek shot and fired it on net, but it was determined that the puck did not cross the goal line - the net moved as if "bumped" by a hard shot, but it turned out to be due to a defenseman's stick.
Somewhat deflated, the Jackets still drew another penalty, and played with more of the man advantage in the third period, but still could not find an answer for Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 34 shots before the Jackets pulled Steve Mason for the extra skater with just over a minute and a half left.
As it turned out, that was all the time they needed. With just over a minute to go, Fedor Tyutin held the puck in the zone, stopping a Dennis Wideman clearing attempt, then dragged the puck over to Grant Clitsome along the blue line to keep the play going after shuffling past Rostislav Olesz. Clitsome loaded up, fired, and Antoine Vermette scooped the rebound up and into the net with just under a minute to go, sending the game to OT.
Just like last night, the Jackets dominated the overtime period, but unlike Tuesday's match in Tampa, this time they got something to show for it - Matt Calvert showed more of the hustle that has defined his time with the Jackets so far, drawing a hooking penalty that sent Dimitry Kulikov to the box with just over a minute and a half to go in OT.
Florida called a timeout to try and respond, giving their PK a bit of rest to charge them up, but once again Grant Clitsome would be an impactful player, taking a pass from Rick Nash at the back of the zone, firing through traffic, and R.J. Umberger would tip the puck up and under the crossbar for the overtime game winning goal.
Final Score: Jackets 3 - Panthers 2 (OT)
- Fedor Tyutin - He got burned on one goal, but Tyutin not only had the opening Jacket goal, but a major piece of the game tying goal. He's been one of the team's best d-men since being benched, and tonight he really showed it. I sincerely hope his dad was there to see him tonight.
- Matt Calvert - Admittedly, Calvert did not score tonight, but he hustled, was responsible defensively, and drew two penalties, including the game winning PP. He was elevated to the 2nd line when Juice dried up tonight, and did not look out of place.
- Grant Clitsome - Possibly the most positively impactful callup this season. If he hasn't been told to get a place in town by tonight, I'd be shocked.
- R.J. Umberger - R.J. plays like a wild man when he knows his dad is watching. Seriously, can we bring him along as a good luck charm for the rest of the year?
- Antoine Vermette - First goal in a month. Couldn't have come at a bigger time.
- Steve Mason - The two goals were frustrating, but the other 29 saves were huge.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- First Period - Seriously, what the HELL was that start tonight? I almost wonder if the dads came down to the locker room and asked the boys what they thought they were doing.
- Kristian Huselius - Juice was...pretty much totally ineffective tonight. Only Jared Boll and Derek MacKenzie played less tonight than he did, and at least Boll had a couple of scraps to show for it.
- Florida Attendance - I know that the Jackets have had some stinkers, too, but at least they make an effort to get people into the lower bowl and make it look good for TV. This game had, as the joke goes, plenty of good seats still available, and it showed.
The Jackets will have a few days off before taking on the St. Louis Blues at the Scotttrade Center on Saturday night. The puck drops at 8:00pm.