With Todd Richards taking over as interim head coach, the hope was that the Blue Jackets could wrap up this road trip with a win in his debut to at least get a .500 record out of what was an incredibly costly voyage.
Though the roster was basically unchanged (Grant Clitsome would be scratched and Aaron Johnson given a chance to play on the third pairing with John Moore), the Blackhawks were in the midst of a four game losing skid, with several key players (Viktor Stalberg, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane) all in scoring slumps.
Unfortunately, this game did more to prove the old proverb right than wrong.
To the Jackets' credit, they came out swinging, putting a great deal of early pressure on Corey Crawford, while Curtis Sanford looked sharp early despite not getting a lot of early tests.
The Jackets had a golden opportunity to get onto the board first, taking the first power play early on a slashing call against Jimmy Hayes, then spending most of the remaining the first period on the man advantage after Steve Montador took instigator and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for jumping Jared Boll as the third man in when he took exception to a hit on Andrew Brunette.
Boll won the fight, though he seemed to have some collateral damage to his hand, but the Todd Richards power play sure looked like it had all the same problems as the Scott Arniel one. Despite having four minutes to work with, they mustered all of two shots, neither of which appeared to have much to challenge Crawford.
In the second period, another hit by Boll triggered another early fight, this time with Jamal Mayers dropping the gloves, and the Jackets' pugilist didn't fare nearly as well, getting dropped quickly to the ice.
Columbus would end up with another power play after all the penalties were sorted out, but insult would be added to injury when Marian Hossa forced a turnover and charged up ice, eventually setting up Dave Bolland for a long pass that he carried in and rammed through Sanford's legs.
R.J. Umberger would respond a few minutes later, tying the game when he collected a David Savard rebound and whacked it home, but frequent Jackets killer Viktor Stalberg would put the Hawks up 2-1 on his first goal in ten games when he collected a pass from Patrick Kane in front of the net and fired a quick wrister over Sanford's shoulder.
Stalberg would score again early in the period on a delayed penalty against Columbus when he found a bouncing puck around the crease and shot it through traffic, and Ben Smith would score on a ridiculously soft shot that seemed to surprise Sanford less than a minute later.
Antoine Vermette would take a behind-the-back feed from Ryan Johansen and snap it home to pull the Jackets back within two, but the next best scoring chance came to an end when R.J. Umberger hit the post a minute later, and the Blackhawks defense made a clear effort to lock down.
With Sanford on the bench late for an extra attacker, Stalberg would race after a loose puck, knocking down David Savard before gaining possession and completing his hat trick.
The more things change, the more things stay the same.
Final Score: Jackets 2 - Blackhawks 5
- R.J. Umberger - Breaking a long goalless skid, Umby seemed like one of the more motivated guys tonight.
- Aaron Johnson - Love him or hate him (and I'm not really a fan of his "defense"), the roving d-man had an assist on both Columbus goals and managed to finish as a +1.
- Tomas Kubalik - While he didn't score, Kubalik seems to be getting more comfortable, and making an effort to get around the puck as much as possible. Now if he can stop taking a bad penalty each game...
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Rick Nash - While the captain had an incredible 9 shots on goal tonight, he was also guilty of several lazy turnovers and seemed like he was playing in his own end more often than not - even on the power play. Compare that to how Jonathan Toews was all over the ice last night, and reflect.
- Power Play - 5 opportunities, including a double minor, resulting in bupkis. And John Moore has still yet to see time on the PP this season, which still confuses me.
- Vinny Prospal - I hate to keep piling on to the top line, but Vinny looked tired last night, and it showed. As several fans noted on Twitter, the strain of carrying this team may be adding up for him.
The Jackets will come home, lick their wounds, and prepare to take on the Coyotes at home on Friday night to start a brief home stand before hitting the road once again. Todd Richards joined a fairly large collection of Columbus coaches to have lost in his debut - but almost all of them (including Scott Arniel) would collect their first win on the second try. Perhaps we can hope for the same.