Do me a favor. Take a second and re-read this.
Go back in time. Remember how you felt that night. Unhinge your bile duct. Let the hate, the frustration, the burning need to pay those sons of bitches back build up in you.
I figure that's just about how Scott Arniel had the Jackets feeling as they skated out onto the ice in Pittsburgh tonight.
The Jackets had a good start to get the game going vs. the depleted Penguins side, and the grievances of the first matchup between these two teams got a bit of redress early when Derek Dorsett and Ben Lovejoy dropped the gloves, but the real cheers for Blue Jackets fans came when Derick Brassard curled in at the top of the Penguins zone, found Rick Nash with a nifty pass down at the goal line, and the captain blasted a shot past Fleury at a sick angle to put the Jackets up 1-0.
For the next ten minutes, the Jackets continued to manage the puck well, and Steve Mason made a couple of nice saves, but the next big game changer would come when Fedor Tyutin went behind his own net to play the puck, turned to flip the puck around the boards to Jan Hejda...and got viciously slammed into the glass and the boards by Matt Cooke, who left his feet to deliver a punishing hit.
Derick Brassard immediately went to challenge Cooke for the hit, and Cooke was given a major for charging in addition to his fighting major.
The Jackets would fail to convert on the major penalty, but thankfully Fedor Tyutin would return to the game as the first period came to the end with a score of 1-0.
In the second period, neither team was able to find an edge until Eric Godard clipped Jared Boll, drawing a penalty, but rather than respond in kind, Boll skated away and allowed the Jackets to work the delayed penalty. Jan Hejda sent the puck up ice to R.J. Umberger, who charged into the goal and fired it on Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury's pad save sent the puck back at Sammy Pahlsson as he crashed the net, and the puck bounced off Pahlsson's leg, Fleury's pads, and into the net for the 2-0 lead.
The goal was reviewed to confirm that Pahlsson had not made a distinct kicking motion, and after video review was confirmed as a good goal.
Both sides would continue the tug of war until late in the period when Rick Nash sent a beautiful long pass up and over the ice to Jakub Voracek, who hustled into the zone against Kris Letang to get the puck, shook his way free of the Penguins' defenseman, then drove to the net and flipped the puck past Fleury when the netminder dove to attempt a poke-check for the 3-0 lead.
Steve Mason made a couple nice saves late, including a big stop on Jordan Staal, and the Jackets would take the 3-0 lead into the locker room to prepare for the final period.
In the third, things seemed to be going to plan - tight defense, good skating, keeping the puck moving - until Chris Clark took a slashing call at the 5:30 mark. The PK played well, and Steve Mason made a couple more nice stops, but Tyler Kennedy was able to take the puck and shoot from a somewhat screened angle just as the power play was about to expire to bust the shutout bid.
The Pens drew life from the goal, and the long-silent CONSOL Energy Center suddenly began cheering again, but their excitement was silenced a short time later when the Jackets' second line decided to get onto the board again. Chasing the puck into the Penguins' zone, Kristian Huselius stole the puck away from Kris Letang on a breakout attempt, then passed it to Antoine Vermette as he collapsed down on Fleury. Vermette's first shot was stopped by Fleury, but Vermette caught his own rebound and whacked it back at the net, the puck sliding through The Flower's five hole to restore the three goal lead.
After doing an excellent job of turning the other cheek and allowing the Penguins to suffer penalties for their attempts at provocation, Jared Boll was finally prodded into fighting by Eric Godard after a nasty facewash - the fight was short and rather ugly - Boll clearly didn't want to give Godard any extra ammunition, and since Godard had pinned him along the boards, he was happy to let the Penguin winger spend his energy punching the glass several times.
The Jackets appeared to be set to end the game on the man advantage as a result, but a late minor to Derick Brassard turned it to 4 on 4 hockey to end the game, and Steve Mason continued to make big stops to deny Pittsburgh any satisfaction before time ran out, and the Jackets found themselves with a measure of revenge...and plenty of bad blood to last the teams until their next meeting.
Final Score: Jackets 4 - Penguins 1
- Steve Mason - 9-4-1 in his last 14 starts. Mase made 33 stops tonight, including a couple big ones on Jordan Staal and Dustin Jeffrey. He made a few mistakes tonight, but he generally cleaned up his own messes. He really seems to be coming around into form - perhaps a bit later than we might have liked, but better late than never.
- The Top Six - 13 points on the night, and the top line all had potential for Gordie Howe Hat Tricks (Brass needed a goal, Nash and Jake needed fights). Hell of an effort from all of them, particularly Jake.
- The Checking Lines - They took away the ice time from the Penguins, refused to rise to the bait when Cooke and Godard tried to push them into taking penalties, and showed great efforts blocking shots and taking away the passing lanes.
- The D - I was as worried as the rest of you when we were told Anton Stralman would go tonight in place of John Moore, but the entire D played about as solid a game as we could ask. Kris Russell had some nice chances off the rush, Grant Clitsome did a great job of keeping the puck moving in the zone, Hejda, Tyutin, and Methot all made good decisions with the puck, and Stralman ended the night a remarkable +4!
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Matt Cooke - Someday, somewhere, Matt Cooke is going to come to a real bad end. I just hope he doesn't end anyone else's career before it happens. (Update: Not surprisingly, Puck Daddy has coverage of the hit here.)
With the win, the Jackets leapfrog Colorado and are now 4 points back of 8th place Chicago, but there's no rest for the wicked - the boys fly back to Columbus tonight, and will take on the San Jose Sharks at Nationwide tomorrow evening. The puck drops at 7pm.