Preseason games don't often have worthwhile storylines prior to puckdrop, but tonight was different. The last time these teams met, a dustup involving Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck and Columbus' James Wisniewski led to the latter being handed an eight-game suspension.
This game didn't have the physical confrontations that some expected, but it was a great night for two right wingers hoping to make the team, and Nash and Carter showed what a deadly combo they could be.
Oh, and Steve's back.
Columbus had an early chance when Wild goalie Josh Harding misplayed the puck behind the net, and Derek Dorsett was on the doorstep to put a shot on net. Harding got back just in time to make the save. Dorsett started the game on a checking line with center Samuel Pahlsson and winger Maksim Mayorov.
One line that impressed me early- and maybe it was just the thought of the potential of the line- was the Derick Brassard - Ryan Johansen - R.J. Umberger grouping. They looked slick together, and some chemistry was evident. This would be a great complimentary line to Nash/Carter/? and Prospal/Vermette/?.
Fedor Tyutin was whistled for a holding the stick penalty, and Dorsett and Pahlsson went out as the first set of PK forwards. They were very effective, and Dorsett was particularly aggressive on the kill. The Wild weren't able to convert with the man advantage.
At the 11:17 mark, a scramble in front of Columbus goalie Steve Mason led to Wild forward Guillaume Latendresse tucking the puck into the net. The goal was unassisted.
A few minutes later, Fedor Tyutin was back in the box for clipping. The call was.....made by the ref. At least he thought it was clipping, and he's the guy with the whistle. The Jackets PK, led again by Dorse and Sammy, prevented the Wild from going up by two goals. Mason had a great save as well to shut the door.
Soon after, some pleasantries were exchanged between Clutterbuck and Tyutin. You'll recall that the confrontation between Wisniewski and Clutterbuck the last time the teams played was preempted by Clutterbuck taking a run at Tyutin. At this point, it was just an exchange of shoves.
Later in the period Johansen had a nice rush, pulling a Nash when as he crossed the blueline he spun around, and skated backwards, posterior-leading waiting for the trailer. It was fun to watch.
Soon after on another call that most of us missed, Vermette went to the box for holding. The Wild were ineffective on the PP. When he returned to the ice, a scrum after the whistle in front of Mason led to Vermette having a heated discussion with the ref, no doubt Vermette was asking the ref to politely misplace his whistle.
End of the 1st: 1-0 Wild.
Just 44 seconds into the second, the Vermette line was buzzing, and Cam Atkinson fed Fedor Tyutin, and Toots blasted a shot from the point past Harding. The goal certainly made up for the two penalties Toots served in the first period. The assists were from Atkinson and Vermette.
Shortly after, Radek Martinek (who has looked very steady so far this preseason) pinched in deep, and when a shot wasn't available he turned and fed the puck to Nash in the high slot, and the captain one-timed the puck into the net, to give the Jackets a 2-1 lead. Assists were to Martinek and Kubalik.
A few seconds later, Johansen went to the box on a boarding call. The check didn't look malicious, but the ref has a better view than I do, the Wild were not able to convert on another powerplay. At the two minute mark, Marco Scandella went off for Holding, and the Jackets ended up with a 50 second powerplay, the overlap of the Johansen penalty. The Jackets looked dangerous, but couldn't convert.
The Jackets went to the powerplay when Justin Faulk of the Wild went to the box for interference, and that new guy that Howson traded for- Jeff, something? Jeff...Carter? That's it. Carter. He scored to put the Jackets up 3-1.
I had lost the feed, so here's the call from our eyes at the game, Ole Man Wagner:
...we had Tyutin come off the half boards, pass to Kubalik at the side of the net, and Kubalik fed it to Carter in the slot who unloaded a top shelf one timer.
From what I have seen, Kubalik is a natural with Nash and Carter. This goal takes it a step further.
A few minutes later Latendresse goes back to the box for roughing. It was after Latendresse was shoving Tyutin, trying to goad him into another penalty. Tyutin showed restraint, and Latendresse paid for his attempt.
On the ensuing powerplay, the big unit was unleashed, and while they didn't score, Nash and Carter are showing how dominant they can be. A great sign for sure.
The teams traded penalties and went four and four to end the period, and I have regained the online feed.
After 2, Jackets lead 3-1.
To start the third the teams alternated rushes, and the play seemed tentative. One thing I definitely noticed tonight is the effectiveness of the top line tonight. This is the first game where they looked nearly, if not entirely cohesive.
Quick thought- I wish George Matthews could join Bill Davidge on the TV crew. I love George's play calling. I absolutely love it.
The first half of the third period was uneventful, the Jackets clamped down defensively and was dictating play, but at 8:10 of the third the Wild put one past Steve Mason. It was frustrating because Mase was millimetres (fractions of an inch for you Americans...) away from gloving the puck. It was a powerplay goal for the Wild, with Martinek in the box for high-sticking.
After the goal, the Wild gained life and dictated the play but there were some signs of life. The top line had some chances, but the best was a charge to the net by Johansen. Harding made the save, but Johansen looked like a seasoned pro going hard to the net. He's a Blue Jacket this season.
The second line, which has been buzzing all net, got together to put the Jackets up 4-2. Cam Atkinson showed his amazing hands and coordination to put the puck past Harding. Assists to linemates Prospal and Vermette.
At this point, the two right wingers fighting for jobs-Kubalik and Atkinson- both have two points on the night. With Calvert out, and Arniel looking at playing three scoring lines, these two could both be on the opening night roster.
With 1:23 left in the game, and the Wild on the powerplay (with Martinek in the box), the Wild pulled their goalie. With Minny pressing, Mason came up with a huge save, going post to post to keep the score at 4-2. He even earned a "holy moly what a goalie!" from Matthews. You know that means it was a sick save.
The Wild weren't able to convert, and the Jackets held on for the win.
Final score: 4-2 Jackets.
- Top Line: The line of Nash, Carter and Kubalik was making things happen all night. I was particularly impressed with Kubalik- he looked so comfortable with Nash and Carter. Hopefully a sign of things to come.
- Steve Mason: While he wasn't tested much early, he couldn't be faulted for the two goals against. He had a phenomenal third period, and for the first time in years, he looked like Calder Steve.
- Fedor Tyutin: Tyuts was whistled for two penalties in the first, one of which was a little cheesy, but he overcame and had a great final two periods. He showed restraint when Clutterbuck was goading him, and he scored a beauty goal in the second.
- The Jackets PK: Granted, the Wild did scored a powerplay goal, but the pairing of Derek Dorsett and Sammy Pahlsson looked great in a killing role.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- John Moore: The former first round pick didn't make an impact. In fact, I haven't seen him all preseason. For a guy who is relied on to move the puck and help contribute to the offense, he just hasn't delivered. He's ticketed for Springfield this season. (Disclaimer: not a bad thing)
- Penalites: The Jackets took too many tonight, end of story.
- Vinny Prospal: The only reason he is here is because he didn't play a single second of special teams. He was the only player with under ten minutes of icetime. What gives?
The Jackets improve to 4-2-1 on the preseason, and close out the exhibition schedule with a game tomorrow night in Carolina. That game will be a "last chance" opportunity for guys like Martin St.Pierre and Alexandre Giroux. Look for Curtis Sanford to go the distance.