(I apologize for the lack of a picture, we're having some technical difficulties.)
After Scott Arniel called out his team this morning in a meeting where he demanded professionalism and a 60 minute effort, the Blue Jackets delivered. The problem is that the matchup vs. the Calgary Flames really demanded something more like a 70 minute performance.
Still seeking their 10th win of 2011, the Jackets took the ice against Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla. Head coach Scott Arniel rotated his lines again, this time placing Ryan Johansen with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter as his top line. The remaining line combinations included Vinny Prospal, Mark Letestu, and Antoine Vermette to round out the top six, a checking line of Dorsett, Pahlsson, and Umberger, and Derick Brassard centering the fourth line with Jared Boll and Derek MacKenzie.
The reworked formations did an excellent job preventing the Flames from getting solid looks at Steve Mason, but did not create a burst of offensive power. Instead, this configuration of the lineup seemed to work best with a physical attack, grinding the Flames down, and an early scrap between Cory Sarich and Derek Dorsett would set the tone for the rest of the night.
After a scoreless first period, the Jackets would score first for the 18th time this season, with Derick Brassard firing a long shot through traffic on the power play that found its' way through Kipprusoff's legs.
That goal would hold through the remainder of the second period, but the Jackets could not find a way to extend the lead before Derek Mackenzie was called for tripping early in the third period. The penalty kill did a good job of forcing Calgary back into their zone early, but Jarome Igina would get to a loose puck in the slot after a Flames rush and stuff his shot under a sprawling Mason and into the net for his 498th career NHL goal.
Though the Jackets did not completely collapse after the tying goal, the team seemed to focus on avoiding mistakes rather than creating offense, allowing Calgary to dominate the remaining possession in regulation.
In OT, the Jackets seemed to gather themselves and come out firing, including a beautiful attempt for Antoine Vermette that just sailed wide of an open net, but Calgary would storm back in the final two minutes of extra time, including a heart stopping moment where Steve Mason lost the puck with less than ten seconds left in OT and several Flames swarming around the net, but the young goaltender was finally able to fall on the puck to stop the clock.
In the shootout, Mark Letestu would make a move but come up dry against Kipper, while Iginla would once again put his mark on the game, dekeing in on Mason and ramping a shot off the goal stick and into the net.
Rick Nash attempted to answer for Columbus but lost the puck off his stick while trying to go from forehand to backhand, but Mason was able to make a nice glove save on former Jacket Curtis Glencross to keep his team alive.
James Wisniewski attempted to pull the Jackets back in as the final shooter, but his shot would ring off the goalpost, leaving Columbus winless in eight of their last nine games, and having lost for the 7th time this season when leading after two periods.
- Steve Mason - I'll be the first to admit that Iginla's PPG was ugly as hell, but Mason turned in a very solid game tonight. He deserved to be rewarded for his efforts.
- Derick Brassard - Even though he was demoted to the fourth line, Brass made the most of his additional power play opportunities.
- John Moore - Still really impressed by his skating and the way he's been fitting in with Wiz.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Offense - Once again this team is struggling to crack a two goal barrier. There has to be a middle ground between All Offense / No Defense and Ironclad Defense / No Offense.
- Power Play - One is a symptom of the other, but the Jackets had four opportunities to score with the man advantage and only cashed in one one - and that one came off a broken play and a lucky screen.
- Consistency - Line combos continue to be shuffled. I respect Arniel's mindset that he'll keep changing it until something works, but you can't help but wonder if part of the problem is nobody knows who will be going out on the ice with them at any given time.
With a better effort and a partial reward, it's something, but not nearly what fans had been hoping for from the Jackets in the month of December, but there will be another chance for win #10 on Thursday night when the team flies down to Dallas.