There was fanfare. There was a packed barn. The video introduction for the club was all about hard work. There was Rick Nash, and plenty of booing to go with it. There was no Dan Boyle nor Henrik Lundqvist. And there was lots of hitting. I mean, LOTS of hitting. Umm, these two teams do not like each other. Rivalry, anyone?
In the end, the Jackets were able to make their own luck, if you will, and capitalize on their chances when they got them. And, in the end, they brought home their second win in as many games and sent the fans home happy on opening night. Here's how it all went down.
The Jackets were clearly the better team early, as the Rangers couldn't keep the puck out of their zone, and then Carl Hagelin delivered a high elbow to Marko Dano at the 3:39 mark to give the Jackets an early Power Play. The Jackets couldn't get much set up throughout the first half of the PP time, but with about 35 seconds left they set up a nice chance with Foligno sending it through the crease to a pinching James Wisniewski who saw the pass bounce off his skate.
The Power Play would end with no damage, but the Rangers' inability to clear the zone would put them behind early. After a Dalton Prout glove save to keep the puck in high on the right point, Prout sent it hard around where Dano was able to chip it forward for Scott Hartnell. Harsty corralled the puck and fired it high to Artem Anisimov who had just come off the bench. Arty would unleash a one-timer that would get past Talbot to put the Jackets on the board first.
1-0 Jackets - Artem Anisimov (2nd) at 6:23, from Scott Hartnell and Marko Dano - EV
The goal seemed to energize the Rangers, and their compete level jumped up a bunch over the next few minutes. They were able to hem the Jackets in for a bit, but luckily no damage was done. Then, things got a bit ugly when, after dumping the puck to get a line change, Ansimov would take a high elbow to the mouth from Lee Stempniak. Stempniak went off for charging, and Anisimov went to the dressing room for a look. Because, that's what this team needs, is another injured player. Thankfully, he would be back on the bench before the end of the Power Play, which went by uneventfully.
Things got worse, as Stempniak came out of the box and his fresh legs ate up Jack Johnson, who was forced to haul Stempniak down as he cut to the net. And, true to form, Hartnell came in late with a thunderous check on Stempniak after the whistle, which set things in motion all over again. Johnson got a deserved penalty, and somehow Hartnell got no discipline. The Jackets killed off this Power Play more efficiently than the first, and then answered with an even louder hit.
Columbus worked it into the zone, and Johansen and Foligno played a little two-man game on the right half-wall. Foligno came out of it with the puck, curled to the middle, and fired a shot on Talbot which was saved. The rebound, however, set the tone for the bounces going the Jackets' way, as it came right back to Foligno--who was falling, but still able to chip the puck over the pad of Talbot before crashing into the goal.
2-0 Jackets - Nick Foligno (1st) at 17:33, from Ryan Johansen and David Savard - EV
That's how the first would end.
End of 1st Period - 2-0 Blue Jackets
Does anyone like Lee Stempniak? I don't. After the hit he dropped on Anisimov in the first (and the other shot he tried to take at Anisimov later as they both crossed going to their benches), he was on my shit list. Then, the Jackets got flat-footed and let him get on the score sheet, as well. After some sloppy play, the Jackets allowed the Rangers to keep the puck in the zone, and after Marc Staal fired a point shot wide, Stempniak was allowed to gather it behind the net, cycle out, and as Ryan Johansen kind of stood and watched, skate into the slot where he received the return feed of a give and go with Anthony Duclair and wired a shot past Bobrovsky unmolested.
2-1 Jackets - Lee Stempniak (1st) at 5:43, from Anthony Duclair and Marc Staal - EV
To say the Rangers were the better team for the next five minutes or so would be an understatement. The Jackets looked sloppy, unorganized in their own zone, and generally unable to keep the ice from being tilted their way. And then, as it often does, The Flukey Bounce became their savior. Not long after a Duclair shot beat Bobrovsky but was denied by the pipe, the Jackets got yet another bounce to put their lead back to two. Johansen managed to hold the puck in high on the right point after a clearing attempt, and in one motion he fired it toward the net. It went off Foligno right in front, and that Flukey Bounce caused it to sneak by Talbot, right onto the doorstep for Cam Atkinson, who was uncovered and able to tap it home.
3-1 Jackets - Cam Atkinson (2nd) at 9:49, from Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen - EV
Again, those bounces. The teams would trade chances throughout, and then late in the period Bobrovsky made what may have been the save of the game. After a turnover during a defensive line change saw all three Jackets forwards caught deep, Nash and Martin St. Louis had what amounted to a two-on-one. Jack Johnson closed, and forced Nash to pass to St. Louis, who had beaten Dalton Prout back (again, line changing). St. Louis redirected it on net, and Bobrovsky sprawled across to get his leg on it to keep it out. On the replay, St. Louis certainly helped Bob out by putting it more to the center of the net, but credit to Bobrovsky who was moving with the pass and still got his leg on it.
After what looked like an unfortunate and unintentional collision between Jack Skille and Zuccarello, Chris Kreider took exception and came off the bench and took an immediate run at Skille, who threw his hands up to signal that the hit was unintentional. Kreider got the instigator, plus five for fighting, plus a 10 minute misconduct. Skille got five for fighting, though it was clear he had no intention of doing so. A high stick from Alexander Wennberg evened things up 30 seconds in. The teams finished up four on four, with 1:00 to go on that as the third began.
End of 2nd Period - 3-1 Jackets
To call this game anything but "ugly" would be untrue. These two teams hit the snot out of each other, and the fact that both teams have some new faces and some injuries, and the chemistry just isn't there across the board. The game would end with just 50 total shots (26-24 Rangers) getting on net, though seven of those found their way to the back of the net.
Another lineup mish-mash would get another one of those bounces to push the lead to three. After some good work to keep the puck deep, it would come out to the left point where Chaput was covering. He gathered it, fed it across to Prout, and Prouter loaded up the cannon for a blast. The shot was saved, but the rebound bounced right onto Dano's stick and he slapped it into the wide open net for his first ever NHL goal.
4-1 Jackets - Marko Dano (1st) at 13:47, from Dalton Prout and Michael Chaput - EV
Game over? Welp.
The Jackets got caught a bit flat-footed right after the goal, and the Rangers came right back. A bad turnover on the right side gave the puck to Duclair, who skated in and tried to pass to Nash on the right side. Savard blocked the pass, but the puck went back to Duclair who took a nice shot that was saved. The rebound, however, kicked right over to Nash, who buried it from the sharp angle despite Hartnell's best attempt to dislodge the net.
4-2 Jackets - Rick Nash (3rd) at 14:19, from Anthony Duclair - EV
The Jackets refocused their energy, and then did their best to make the Rangers go 200 feet the rest of the way, and forced Talbot to the bench with 3:00 to go. After a couple of near misses, Aktinson would finally ice it with 1:21 left to send everyone home happy.
5-2 Jackets - Cam Atkinson (3rd, 2nd of game) at 18:39, from Scott Hartnell - EV/EN
Final Score - 5-2 Blue Jackets
- Nick Foligno - the dude was a beast tonight. He was all over the place, had one goal, and his chemistry with Johansen is evident at all times. Add in the growing chemistry with Cam Atkinson, and it has the makings of a good, good line if all three can stay healthy.
- Marko Dano - Stick taps for the first goal and assist in the NHL. I know this recap drips with sarcasm about getting the bounces, but his goal was a result of being in the right place at the right time and having the reflexes and stick control to score it. A much better showing overall tonight than even the first game, in which he didn't look totally overwhelmed.
- Cam Atkinson - He looked primed to score 30 goals.
- Ryan Johansen - He's quietly put up three assists in these first two games. The skills are still there. Once he gets in sync with Foligno and Atkinson, watch out.
- PK - For both teams. Neither squad's Power Play could do much tonight, and the PKers were called upon a lot given the chippiness.
- Jared Boll - One of the things I pride myself on is being able to admit when I'm wrong about something, and I have to at least mention Boll's game tonight. For what he's asked to do, he's doing it well so far. He's actually showing some offensive skill on top of it. Good Lord, Boller, don't make me eat that ghost pepper.
Bottom of the Barrel
- Ryan Johansen - for holding out. The wheels are just not there, yet. You can see him labor late in shifts, and the Rangers first goal was a direct result of him just watching Stempniak skate away from him. He'll get there, but man, oh man... if he'd been here from the outset, how dangerous would that 71--19--13 line be right now?
- Chris Kreider - Come on, man. Do you seriously think Skille was trying to run Zucs? Just a ridiculous play to come right off the bench and charge at a guy and try to fight him.
- Cam Talbot - Got some unlucky bounces, but an .826 save percentage ain't gonna cut it.
The Jackets are 2-0-0, folks, and well on their way to that "good start" we've all always wanted for them. Here's hoping it can continue when the improved Dallas Stars come to town on Tuesday.