In a battle of the two worst teams in the Western Conference (and arguably the two worst in the NHL), one never knows quite what to expect.
In a meeting of the Ducks and Blue Jackets at the Honda Center, Anaheim fans were treated to a battle that may be remembered as much for the bizarre injuries and dramatic finish as the offensive explosion from both clubs.
Despite Columbus netminder Curtis Sanford posting a shutout on Saturday versus Los Angeles, head coach Scott Arniel opted to go back to his rotation with goalie Steve Mason, citing concerns about overworking Sanford and risking aggravating a nagging back injury that has plagued the journeyman most of this season. For the Ducks, head coach Bruce Boudreau placed his faith in Jonas Hiller, who would be backed up by rookie Iiro Tarkki in place of the injured Dan Ellis.
Anaheim would open the scoring on their third shot of the game when Andrew Cogliano collected a long rebound to beat a sprawling Steve Mason, then extended the lead when Corey Perry tucked a shot off Mason's shoulder on a textbook transition play.
Rick Nash would put the Blue Jackets on the board late in the opening period, tucking a shot behind Hiller from the goal line, but Teemu Selanne would restore a two goal lead on the power play after Marc Methot was called for interference.
Columbus head coach Scott Arniel might have been expected to change goaltenders after three goals in the first 18 minutes of play, but it would be Anaheim who swapped after Jonas Hiller appeared to suffer a lower body injury after making a save, putting Tarkki in net for the first time this season.
The Blue Jackets head coach would find his hand forced, however, after Mason surrendered another goal in the final minute of the opening period, and Curtis Sanford would lead the Blue Jackets on to the ice for the remainder of the game.
Columbus would attempt to tilt the ice back in their favor by turning up their physical play, leading to the first of two fights on the evening for Derek Dorsett, and Derick Brassard would take advantage of a roughing call on Francois Beauchemin to cut the Ducks' lead to two when he slammed a hard shot from the faceoff dot past Tarkki.
Hopes of a Columbus rally appeared to die late in the second when penalties to Derek MacKenzie and Samuel Pahlsson gave the Ducks an extended two man advantage which both Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne would capitalize on for their second goals of the night, apparently sealing the game less than 30 seconds into the third period.
The Jackets, however, were not quite ready to go away. Rick Nash would respond in the third period to bring the Jackets back to within three goals in the third period on a strong individual effort, and Vinny Prospal would score on a deflection with just under six minutes to go in regulation to bring Columbus within striking distance, and an elbowing major to Jean-Francois Jacques with 5:43 left in regulation gave the Blue Jackets a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but an injury to Jeff Carter after a hit by Beauchemin would leave the Columbus power play unable to find any answers even with Curtis Sanford brought to the bench for an extra attacker.
Corey Perry would fire into an empty net to complete his hat trick for the 7-4 victory, finally putting a cap on a game that seemed to be over in the first period. The Ducks would survive, handing Tarkki a memorable first NHL victory, but perhaps giving Columbus a better chance at the first overall pick, we hope.
Final Score - Ducks 7 - Jackets 4
The news, however, got worse after the game. Head coach Scott Arniel announced in his post game comments that Carter's injury is a separated shoulder. If we're very, very, VERY lucky, this could be a minor separation and Carter might be able to rehab it in a few weeks.
If it's a major separation - or worse, a severe separation requiring surgery - his season is over, and this excruciating season is barely halfway through.
- Rick Nash - Two goals, one a bit fluky, the other a beautiful snipe.
- Derek Dorsett - A goal short of a Gordie Howe, and he certainly seemed to be one of the few guys flying all night.
- Tomas Kubalik - While he didn't impact the scoresheet in his debut aside from a couple of PIMs, he seemed to handle himself well, racking up just under 16 minutes of ice time.
Curtis Sanford - He let in two, yes, but he came in on a difficult situation and wasn't helped by the parade of penalties.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
Why can't this team play a decent game in front of Steve Mason? Why can't Steve Mason play a decent game behind this team? Why does the D suddenly look all-pro when someone else is in net? Why can't we make it through a game without an impact player getting injured lately? How is it we can only muster 7 $@%*ing shots on a rookie goaltender making his NHL debut? Is Jeff Carter's season over? Is Mark Dekanich packing his bags and getting ready to hop on a plane? Is Craig Patrick drinking pepto bismol by the bottle? Is Scott Howson picking up his phone tonight? Will Scott Arniel be able to look in a mirror after drawing up his next lineup card?
Perhaps most importantly, how are we supposed to sit through 41 more games like this?
My God, Mr. McConnell, do you expect the fanbase to sit there and eat this shit raw?
The Jackets will be facing the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. What the lineup looks like for that game, one can only guess.