When the Blue Jackets roared out to a 2-0 lead in the first period over the Hurricanes in the opening minutes of play, you could be blamed for thinking this game was on the same trajectory as the last two wins against Carolina.
Fedor Tyutin started things working with a hard shot on Anton Khudobin, which Derek MacKenzie was in perfect position to clean up on the rebound for his third goal in the last three games.
On the following shift, the Johansen line carried the puck right back into the Carolina zone, and R.J. Umberger would benefit from another gorgeous pass from #19 right in front of the net, slamming it home and giving the team a 2-0 lead on just five shots...at which point, well, things sort of stopped.
Columbus would only put two more shots on net for the remainder of the period, while the Canes would tie the shot clock, several of them on a late period power play that was fortunately unable to connect.
The Jackets had a few chances in the second period, including a glorious crossbar by Nick Foligno while Khudobin was completely out of position, but the Canes started pushing in force, and Sergei Bobrovsky had to keep this team in the game after getting hammered with 17 more shots in the period.
The 2-0 lead lasted halfway through the final frame, and a fan could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Bob might just slip this one out the door, but things changed abruptly when Alexander Semin broke into the Columbus zone. The defenders on the ice collapsed around him in an attempt to take the puck away, but unfortunately that left Eric Staal completely undefended when Semin slipped a pass through the traffic. Staal walked in and snapped a quick shot past Bobrovsky, and the Carolina crowd that had been silenced all night erupted into cheers.
Those cheers got louder a minute later when Staal walked to the net again, this time shooting the puck at the net, and unfortunately it took a bad deflection off of Mark Letestu's stick and tucked in under the crossbar.
There was a sense of painful inevitability when Jordan Staal went end to end and slipped a shot through Bob's five hole as he attempted to square up, giving the Canes a lead and leaving the Jackets shell-shocked.
There were some attempts at a counterattack, but the desperation and scoring touch that had characterized this club for most of the last month wasn't found tonight, and a series of miscues whittled away opportunities, the worst being a point blank rebound opportunity for Artem Anisimov when he had taken his stick off of the ice, or perhaps when the Jackets finally pulled Bob for an extra skater after Jack Johnson worked his way deep into the Hurricane zone...and then threw the puck back into open space rather than at the net, where it would sail back into the neutral zone and cost his team perhaps their last real chance to get this game back into control.
Final Score - Hurricanes 3 - Jackets 2
- Fourth Line Heroics - The Jackets' fourth line has been one of the driving forces all month, and once again did not disappoint.
- Ryan Johansen - His line had a pretty solid game, all things considered, but Johansen in particular seemed to give the Hurricanes fits. He had a couple of posts, but sadly couldn't find the back of the net.
- Jackets Fans - In addition to the significant crowds at the team's CBJBWW game watching party, there was a decent sized contingent of Jackets fans behind the team's bench. Nice job!
- New Hamster Song - If they have to overplay the Kia commercials, at least it's a catchier tune.
Bottom of the Barrel:
Ugh. Um. Can I just say "Yes"? From the decision to go into Prevent defense at the 10 minute mark of the first period to a frustrating batch of bad decisions with the puck, the officials swallowing their whistles despite some pretty blatant Carolina fouls, to a pretty soft goal allowed by Bob on the go-ahead, to the fact that this game could have given them a solid cushion, and now they're back scrapping with the rest of the pack...if it had come at a different time, I think it'd be easy to shrug it off as a hard luck game, but right after the loss to Buffalo, the stings and arrows feel that much worse.
With the loss, the Jackets slip down to 9th in the East, 1 point behind the Red Wings for the final wild card. The good news is that a win tomorrow night against Ottawa would pop them right back into third place. The bad news is that the team is going to have to fly home tonight with this loss in their heads, and face a Senators team that's rested and waiting for them.
With six games left before the Olympic break, the Jackets have still won eight of their last ten games...but after tonight, they need to find some sparks before the long break.