(Sorry for the lateness of the recap - it's been a busy week for all of us at The Cannon, and Friday happened to be a vortex of crazy for us all.)
The final game of the Blue Jackets' record setting homestand against the Calgary Flames started off with each side testing the other. The Flames tended to dominate at the faceoff circle, but the Jackets were better at getting the puck into the offensive zone. All things considered, it seemed like the first period would work out as a wash when the Jackets' fourth line stepped up to the plate.
Derek MacKenzie started the play by recovering the puck behind the net, then tapped it over to Colton Gillies, who went to the side of the net but didn't have a solid shot. Turning to the side, he tossed the puck back to a wide open Jared Boll in the high slot, who slammed it past Kipper's glove side.
Calgary had a chance to equalize late when Derick Brassard was whistled for hooking in the final minutes of the period, but the PK stood tall and the 1-0 lead would stand into the first intermission.
In the second, Calgary came out firing with the man advantage, and continued to press hard at even strength until Curtis Glencross worked his way around Nikita Nikitin and collected a quick pass from Lee Stempniak to tie up the game. More than a few fans had to be feeling a bit nervous, given the way this team might have lost their momentum in the past, but as we've said so often this season, this is a new club, and it would be one of those new additions who put the team on his back.
After another Glencross shot dinged off the pipe, the Jackets counterecharged into the Calgary zone, lead by a good outlet pass by Nikita Nikitin. Nick Foligno would take the puck from there, driving into the offensive zone before siding between the Calgary D and walking to the front of the net. Taking a deceptively soft shot, the puck would slide through Kiprusoff's five hole and into the net. (R.J. Umberger game it one last tap, but the puck was already across the line before he touched it.)
Even as the crowd celebrated the boys in Union Blue retaking the lead, the Jackets would be right back on the attack. R.J. Umberger would win a puck battle at the far boards, then toss it back to Foligno, who hammered another shot from the slot to put the club up 3-1.
If wasn't crazy enough, the Jackets would push the Flames back into their zone off the ensuing faceoff. Lee Stempniak would recover the puck behind his own net and throw it up ice, intending to start a breakout, but Artem Anismov would intercept the pass and fire the puck back on net, going high stick side for the third goal in just 1:15. The offensive explosion would be the fastest three goals in franchise history, breaking a record from all the way back in the inaugural season.
Down 4-1, the Flames began to lose composure, taking a series of penalties, but the Jackets' Power Play wasn't able to extend the lead. It would be well into the third period before the the score changed again, this time thanks to Colton Gillies. Jack Johnson would steal the puck away from Blake Comeau at the boards in the Calgary zone, then threw the puck to Gillies, who was absolutely, totally undefended in the middle of the ice. Firing a quick hopper of a shot, the puck would bounce off Kiprusoff's shoulder, then roll down the ice and into the open net for a 5-1 lead, a score which would hold up through the final minutes as the fans offered a standing ovation until the final horn.
Final Score: Jackets 5 - Flames 1
- Nick Foligno - As nice as it would have been to see him get the hatty, it was still great to see Foligno's hard work with the puck get rewarded in a big way.
- Sergei Bobrovsky - For once, the Jackets actually outshot their opponent, but that doesn't mean Bob didn't put up some serious work. Stopping 24 of 25 shots faced, he kept everything on an even keel, helping to protect the lead once the club pulled out in front.
- Colton Gillies - First goal of the season, and first multi-point game of his NHL career? Not bad.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Power Play - Despite the club working on their special teams in practice this week, the PP remains as bad as the PK is good. With four opportunities, three of them coming after Kipper was fairly clearly shell-shocked, it would have been nice to cash in for confidence, if nothing else.
- Second Period Slump - They battled back in a big way, but the club really let Calgary control the game in the early part of the frame, which is not something they might have been able to recover from against, say, Anaheim or Chicago.
- Justin Abdelkader - If he hadn't exploded for a hatty against Anaheim, the Jackets would be in striking distance of both St. Louis and Detroit. Oh, well.
This is where things are going to get nasty - the Jackets will face Nashville tonight, then fly to Western Canada for their final road games against the Oilers, Canucks, and Flames this season. The team struggled early this season on the road, but the way they've gelled in the last month means this is a very different club. A win against Nashville would put them firmly into playoff contention, and if they can find success on the road...well, who knows?