If this was Rick Nash's swan song, his last appearance between fans at home in Columbus before the trade deadline for the Captain and other potential UFAs and trade targets, it was a horrific, yet strangely appropriate performance.
Early in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche, the Blue Jackets seemed ready to give a surprisingly strong Friday night crowd a good show. Steve Mason faced off against Semyon Varlamov and seemed ready to go with an incredible save on Jay McClement.
For 18 minutes, the Jackets put heavy pressure on Semyon Varlamov and the Avalanche, while keeping Colorado pushed out to the perimeter or chasing the puck in the Neutral zone.
Things finally seemed to break when Colton Gillies got a clean look and fired a rocket shot that rang from the post...and unfortunately flew back up the ice, giving David Jones an opportunity to race up ice on an odd man rush with Shane O'Brien before beating Steve Mason with just under thirty seconds to go in the first period.
For the Jackets, it would be the start of a long fall.Despite only trailing Colorado by a goal to start the second period, it felt as if a squad that had started out with a powerful snarl had been deflated, giving the Avalanche far more room and showing a sudden lack of coordination.
Individual actions by Derick Brassard, Rick Nash, and callup Cam Atkinson tested Varlamov, but the Russian netminder was in superb form, aided in no small part by his defense going above and beyond to block shots wherever possible.
An ugly knee on knee hit by Jones on Brassard lead to a Jackets' power play, but the team seemed disjointed and uncoordinated, perhaps feeling the loss of both Antoine Vermette and Jeff Carter. With the team struggling in the faceoff dot, Colorado PK controlled the puck and pushed Columbus out of their zone again and again, draining more energy from the club and silencing the crowd.
Back at even strength, Gabriel Landeskog would come down the wing and unleash a perfect high glove side shot past Mason, putting the Avs up by a pair, and the Jackets would continue to struggle through the remainder of the period, with the only real spark of life coming when Derek Mackenzie dropped the gloves late in the second with McClement in an attempt to fire up the team.
That fight might have served as a spark on other nights, but this evening it was not to be. Early in the third period, David Jones would be stopped on one attempt but scored on his own rebound, while Steve Downie would follow up a few minutes later to put his new team up by four.
Fans got a pleasant surprise amid the frustration when newly acquired d-man Jack Johnson appeared following his arrival at Nationwide, speaking to fans amid a standing ovation. The d-man would go out to sign autographs and speak to fans through much of the third period.
Meanwhile, the Jackets continued to struggle on the ice, and fans were made even more apprehensive when Rick Nash disappeared from the bench for a significant stretch of the final frame. The team would later say that the winger felt sick and had to leave for the locker room as a result. I suspect that many fans would agree with the sentiment.
Finally, the cherry atop the sundae came when Matt Hunwick raced up ice on a breakaway and slid the puck through Steve Mason's legs with no sign of resistance. The Jackets would spend several more minutes skating around on the ice, but the game had been over for some time - but the clock finally ran to an end.
Final Score - Colorado 5, Columbus 0
- Derick Brassard - Brass had some absolutely gorgeous passes and deserves credit for not giving up on this game even when it was long, long gone. His jump became more and more noticeable when others began to slack off.
- Jack Johnson - His appearance and enthusiastic words for the crowd about joining this team and hoping to build a winner going forward were one of the few positives from this game.
- John Moore - Call him the Fireman, because he spent a significant amount of time trying to bail people out all over the ice. His speed and skating are getting better by the game.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
By all reports, Johnson has passed his physical and will practice with the club before they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday for his debut, while the countdown to the trade deadline continues to tick away...