On a night where the Jackets could have jumped back up into the playoff picture and shaken off some of the stain of a nasty defeat from the Nashville Predators on Sunday, the road trip took another frustrating bend in the road...
The game got off to a shaky start for the Jackets when Antoine Vermette took a hooking penalty in the first seconds of play - a bit of a weak call, but one that forced the PK to be sharp.
The Jackets came out of it well, and began to drive with some momentum, but it was cut short when Scotty Upshall delivered a nasty knee-on-knee hit to Jakub Voracek, sending him to the ice. Kris Russell responded in a heartbeat, dropping his gloves and going after Upshall with a will, and when the scrum was worked out, Russell and Upshall got roughing penalities, while Upshall also received an additional penalty for the knee (though it probably should have been a major - only a little luck prevented that hit from being a season-ending injury).
Unfortunately, the Jackets' power play was short lived. All of 3 seconds, in fact. Vermette won the faceoff, kicked the puck back to the point to Anton Stralman, expecting him to work the cycle...but Stralman didn't seem to be aware a hockey game was being played, standing motionless as the puck slid past him with a pair of Coyotes in hot pursuit, and finally eventually turned around and had to hook Shane Doan to prevent him from taking a shorthanded breakaway, nullifying the power play and putting the teams at 4 on 4.
Aside from a late delay of game penalty when Kris Russell put the puck over the glass on a clearing attempt, the rest of the first period was fairly uneventful - both Mathieu Garon and Ilya Bryzgalov made some good saves, but neither team found an edge despite Derek Dorsett and Derek MacKenzie working a good 2 on 1 break late in the period.
Late in the first, Ethan Moreau also left the ice following a hard shift, and would later be announced as not returning to the game after a rib injury following a hit from Ed Jovanoski.
In the second period, the Jackets found themselves in more penalty trouble - Antoine Vermette lost an edge at the blue line and collided with Eric Belanger, leading to an interference penalty, for example - but couldn't buy a whistle, even when Rick Nash was repeatedly held or high-sticked.
The Coyotes would open the scoring a little past 6 minutes into the period on a bang-bang play - a fast pass from Belanger at the top of the zone down to Scottie Upshall, waiting behind the Jackets net, and he was able to skate up and backhand the puck past Garon before the goaltender or the defense could adjust.
Worse, the Jackets would find themselves in a 2-0 hole a short time later when the team failed to clear the crease - Jake Voracek let Sami Lepisto skate past him unchallenged and slap the puck past Garon and into the net.
The Jackets looked...listless, for lack of a better word, in response, and Scott Arniel was clearly looking for a spark, so he started shuffling his lines - and found a response when R.J. Umberger, paired with Nash and Brassard, got the puck from his linemates and burned from the blue line right in on the goal, banging in his own rebound to get the Jackets on the board.
Even more strangely, perhaps sparked by the Umberger goal, Adrian Aucoin and Derek Brassard appeared to start getting ready to fight on the next shift, even dropping the gloves...then suddenly started what looked like a hugging match, instead. Regardless, it lead to some 4 on 4 hockey where the Jackets had a couple of good looks, including a Vermette shot that had Bryzgalov beat, but just skipped wide, but the Jackets would end the second period down 2-1.
Starting the third, it almost seemed like the luck was starting to go Columbus' way - a slashing call on Upshall found him back in the box, and this time the Jackets' power play looked...if not dangerous, at least competent, and finally scoring late in the man advantage when Fedor Tyutin got the puck to Derick Brassard, who cut through the left faceoff circle and split the D before sending a laser of a pass to Voracek, who was able to finish into the wide open net.
For a few minutes, the Jackets had swung back and put some pressure on the Coyotes, but another "whoops" defensively burned them - Rusty Klesla allowed Shane Doan to set up in front of Mathieu Garon with no challege, and when Keith Yandle fired a shot from the blue line, Doan had all the room he needed to redirect the shot past Garon's pads. There was some concern it could have been touched with a high stick, but review went to the home team, and the Coyotes never looked back, sealing the deal less than a minute later with a Vernon Fiddler goal after he grabbed the rebound from an Adrian Aucoin point shot behind the defense and popped it past Garon on the netminder's stick side.
Final Score: Jackets 2 - Coyotes 4.
- Mathieu Garon - He deserved a better fate than he got, putting up a good effort, particularly with the Jackets down early and often.
- R.J. Umberger - His goal scoring streak continues, and he's been one of the most dangerous guys on the ice. A ton of hustle last night.
- Derek Dorsett - Despite some equipment issues, he stepped into the third line and did a solid job all night. If he'd been able to make just a little better pass on his 2-on-1 break in the first period....ah, well.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Anton Stralman - Why are you on the first PP unit? Why are you even skating lately? Stralman got beat early and often. Probably our worst d-man last night, despite "only" being a -1. Why is he being allowed time with the man advantage compared to Tyutin, who has been much more effective of late?
- Antoine Vermette - For someone looking to make up for being benched Sunday, he didn't show it. One of the minors he was called on wasn't really his fault, but the other was a lazy hook, and he didn't really do anything to stand out, particularly with the team down 2 goals.
- Jake Voracek - Yes, he scored a goal, but he also spent a lot of time standing around and letting the Coyotes skate around him. Maybe Jake needs another game of reflection in the box.
It's easy to say "Oh, the refs totally let the Coyotes get away with things last night", but that's a lame excuse. Once is a bad game. Twice is frustrating. Three times, maybe you should just skate your asses and do something in spite of that?
The team showed some good fire getting back to tie the game, but were too passive for the start of the game, and let things slide again after the Coyotes got the lead back off of lazy plays. It wasn't a pretty game, and it's one of those ones you just hope you won't look at later and wish you had those two points back...