The Blue Jackets came in with a bad taste in their collective mouth after Thursday night's ugly loss to St. Louis. The Red Wings came in on the other end, having beaten that same St. Louis team soundly on Friday. There was some fast and loose hockey early, with the Jackets with more than a couple of turnovers in their own zone early as well as a silly trip by Derek Dorsett less than five minutes in.
The ensuing PK was solid for Columbus, continuing a positive trend--maybe the only one--on the young season. But, the Jackets continued struggling to get the puck out of their own zone with any kind of control. And, after a puck freeze by Steve Mason, Detroit would finally make them pay. Henrik Zetterberg won the draw in the left circle back to Jonathan Ericsson, who touched it over to Niklas Kronwall at the point. Kronwall then sent a quick shot in which Mason was able to stop but not control, and the rebound kicked right to Johan Franzen on the doorstep for the easy put-back to make it 1-0 Detroit at 8:36 mark.
It would continue a trend of slow starts for the Jackets, which is another trend--not so positive--that has followed them all season.
The Jackets were unable to generate their own offense five-on-five, but the Red Wings would help out at the 11:15 mark, as Brandon Dubinsky drew an interference penalty from Niklas Kronwall. Mark Letestu saw his first action on the PP point right away with Jack Johnson, and didn't look out of place. 90 seconds in, the Jackets hadn't really gotten any good looks. Derick Brassard cycled the puck down low to RJ Umberger below the goal line, and Umby walked it up and fed a sick cross-crease pass to Letestu, but it hopped over his stick.
Umby wasn't done. After the ensuing face off, the Jackets kept the puck in the zone and worked it back deep. This time Umberger sent a slick through-the-legs feed in front to Dubinsky, but Wings' goalie Jimmy Howard was up to the task right in front. Though they didn't capitalize, it did help to get their offense going a bit.
Columbus couldn't hold the momentum, as Mark Letestu would take a tripping penalty at the 14:28 mark. Dubinsky would display his PK skills, with a couple of clears and a shift with at least two blocked shots, including one which put him to the ice in some pain.
Fortunately for the Jackets, with just one second on the kill remaining, everyone's favorite jackasswipe Todd Bertuzzi would get a two minute time-out for running Mason, which would put the Jackets right back onto the Power Play, and a late chance to get back even on the scoreboard. They generated a nice chance about halfway through the penalty, with Howard down and scrambling, but no one could get a stick on the puck and get it over Howard.
But Columbus wasn't done. Umberger got another nice look in front of the net, and then finally the Jackets hit pay dirt. After cycling around, Fedor Tyutin carried the puck in behind the goal from the left point, and seeing nothing in front sent it back to James Wisniewski at the blue line. Wiz unleashed the beast, and it found its way past a Red Wing defender, through Umberger's legs, and under Howard's outstretched pad to find the back of the net to tie it at 1-1 at the 18:17 mark.
For Columbus, it was the third straight game with a Power Play goal, which is hopefully the start of a new positive trend. The period would end with Kent Huskins taking a cross-checking penalty after a hit to Jonathan Audy-Marchessault. The teams would go to the dressing rooms tied at 1 after 1.
The Jackets' ensuing Power Play would be both ineffective and costly. The Jackets spent a considerable amount of time chasing Detroit, and with just 14 seconds remaining on the advantage would see Nick Foligno and Wisniewski get tangled up going for a puck. They would both go hard into the boards, with Wiz taking the worst of it as he hit full speed with his back; at replay, his head also whipped forward. He remained down on the ice for several minutes, but thankfully sat up on his own before leaving the ice. For Columbus, it was another blow to an already-depleted blue line corps.
The Jackets would lose Wiz, but would gain some modicum of momentum. Dorsett hustled on the forecheck after a Jackets clear down the ice, and forced a hurried pass from Kronwall that was intercepted by Artem Anisimov in the right circle. He stopped, settled the puck, and roofed a positively sick forehand over Howard to give the Jackets a 2-1 lead at 2:32 of the second period.
The Jackets wouldn't be content to make it easy, however, oh no. At 10:53, Jared Boll would take a silly elbowing penalty to put Detroit back up a skater. Mason made a great save about halfway through the kill on Damien Brunner, and Anisimov and Letestu both had some solid short-handed chances on one shift as they worked the puck deep and outworked the Wings.
The last five minutes saw a pretty good two-goal swing. The Wings had a golden chance go begging as Brunner pushed a one-time redirect wide to the right of the goal with about 5 minutes left. Not too much later, the Jackets would tip the scales the other way. Anisimov did some great work down low, took the puck out to the slot, and poked it back to Johnson at the left point. JMFJ sent it across to Moore out of pressure, and with the Wings out of position over-pursuing, Moore had a great lane to send a sick cross-ice feed back to Anisimov on the left door-step. Arty deked Howard out of his mind and put it home to make it 3-1 Jackets at the 17:18 mark.
The Jackets started to impose their will in the third. Anisimov almost made it rain hats early in the third period on a short-handed chance. We almost got to see Audy-Marchessault get his first NHL goal, as on a two-on-one with Ryan Johansen five minutes into the period, JAM sent a re-direct just wide.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Umberger's work tonight. He didn't get in the score sheet, but he played what I thought was his best game of the season. He took the puck hard to the net, made some great moves on the Power Play, and looked a little more like the Umby of old. Moving in with Anisimov at the 13:12 mark, Arty passed it up to Umby when most guys might have gone for the Trick, and Umberger took it hard to Howard. He was called for Interference for some reason, even though Howard was out of crease, Umby had the puck, and was making a move.
The Jackets would avenge the crap call not 15 seconds later, as they broke out on the ensuing face-off. Dubinsky and Letestu took the puck deep, with Dubi slipping the puck to Test Tube, who fed it through Howard's five-hole for a beautiful short-handed goal at 13:25 to give the Jackets four goals for the first time on the season and make it 4-1.
The rest of the way, the Jackets essentially dominated. They were physical; Detroit had to earn everything, only notching a Brunner goal off a one-timer off of a face-off with just over 26 second left to make the final score look a little more respectable. It was the most complete game we've seen this team play. It was nice to see. Here's hoping we'll see it again soon.
Final Score - Blue Jackets 4, Red Wings 2
- Artem Anisimov - What needs to be said? Arty was everywhere, playing well in all phases of the game. Two goals, and flashed some skill in doing so. When all is said and done, he might be the biggest piece in the Nash deal to come back over. He's starting to look like a guy who will blossom with the ice time he's getting.
- Steve Mason - Have to give it to Mase. After coming in Thursday in relief and playing well, he was again very good tonight. He got tested early, and that always seems to help him to play better. Still, he stepped up tonight.
- The Blue Line - With Wiz going down early in the second period, and already-thin blue line had to reshuffle and bring it home. Jack Johnson played 34:59 (!!) tonight, which set a team record. John Moore stepped up. David Savard and Tim Erixon didn't fold under the pressure.
- Brandon Dubinsky - I've been hard on Dubi at times, but to watch him play on the PK is a thing of beauty. He is a HUGE reason this PK unit is top-10 this year so far after being last almost all of last season. The one shift on the PK in which he blocked three or four shots... just inspiring to watch. His assist to Letestu on the short-handed goal was gorgeous.
- Mark Letestu - Test Tube is earning the ice time he's getting, and he's paying dividends. Another goal tonight, so good chances on his first work on the Power Play, and continued energy. Letestu has really worked his way into being a solid contributor to this team.
Bottom of the Barrel
I don't really want to pick on anyone after a game like this. Maybe David Savard's skating? Jared Boll's silly penalties? The slow start again? Meh. Everyone's on top of the barrel tonight!
The Jackets get to savor this one a bit, as they're off until Tuesday night. Enjoy it, boys! You earned it!