After a big win on Saturday night, the Blue Jackets needed to avoid a let-down as a hungry Stars team came calling. It didn't look good early, and though the Jackets battled back in the second period, their bad start ultimately buried them.
For a team that has an identity of outworking and outskating their opponents, the Jackets knew they would have a tough test tonight with the Stars. Unfortunately, the Jackets came out flat, and the Stars did not. The Jackets looked incredibly sloppy early on, making bad passes in their own zone to go along with turnovers a-plenty. It wouldn't take long for the Stars to capitalize, and it was their top line that did all the damage.
After the Jackets failed to clear for what felt like the 50th time, the puck found its way to Jamie Benn in the high slot to the left of Sergei Bobrovsky. He had time and space, and wound up for a shot... that would become a pass to Tyler Seguin who was set up on the doorstep to Bobrovsky's right. Seguin got the redirect to make it 1-0 before many fans found their seats.
1-0 Stars - Tyler Seguin (1st) at 3:36, from Jamie Benn and Colton Sceviour - EV
If fans were hoping for that goal to be a wake up call for Columbus, they would need to keep waiting. Benn was again a man among boys as he managed to hold the puck in the Jackets zone while fending off Scott Hartnell as well as Artem Anisimov up high. He skated around them into the high slot, and unleashed a wrister that smoked past Bobrovsky into the high glove corner. Just like that.
2-0 Stars - Jamie Benn (1st) at 6:20, unassisted - EV
"It happened," coach Todd Richards said. "They were hungry. They came out and put us on our heels. And then, it came down to battles and playing with speed, and they won most of the battles in the first period."
"They came out a little fast, give them credit," said Ryan Johansen. "They were flying. Through the neutral zone and our zone, they were moving their legs. I think the first period cost us."
The Stars zoomed out to an 8-0 shots advantage, but the Jackets seemed to finally find their legs and started countering. They still had their struggles in their own zone, but they finally started to generate some chances, outshooting the Stars 8-6 the rest of the way.
They had some gorgeous near-misses along the way, but whereas they got some bounces on Saturday night they just couldn't buy any in the first period. Alexander Wennberg almost scored his first NHL goal after a nice wrap-around attempt got through the legs of Kari Lehtonen, only to die in the crease before crossing the line (and before anyone could tap it home).
Likewise, Jack Skille grabbed a clearing attempt on the half wall, skated in on the right, and got the puck to Michael Chaput, who sent it on net. Jared Boll was camped out, grabbed a rebound, and had a chance to roof it over Lehtonen's pad. But, true to form, it deflected straight up in the air instead.
The Jackets got a late Power Play after an Erik Cole hook of Jack Johnson, but looked sloppy on the Power Play and went into the dressing room down by two.
End of 1st - 2-0 Stars
The second period didn't start much better for Columbus, as the Stars had more jump early. This time, however, Columbus would weather the storm, and used some Power Play time later in the period to get the Stars out of rhythm. Columbus finally got their game going, and it was the man they call Joey getting the job done.
After an initial lull in the first five minutes, the Jackets' top line got them on the board and got the mostly restless crowd back into the game. After a nice stretch pass from Johnson to Cam Atkinson got the puck to Cam inside the Stars' blue line right by the Jackets' bench, he tapped it to a streaking Johansen who carried it to the faceoff dot and unleashed a wrister that beat Lehtonen cleanly to get Columbus on the board.
2-1 Stars - Ryan Johansen (1st) at 6:17, from Cam Atkinson and Jack Johnson - EV
The Jackets weren't done, as they outworked the Stars and forced some penalties. Marko Dano did some great work behind the Stars' net on the forecheck, and forced Trevor Daley to trip him. It was a silly penalty from Daley, and the Jackets' PP unit--which had largely struggled on the night up to this point--would make Dallas pay.
It was again Johnson getting it started, creeping in off the right point to the half wall. He lasered a pass to Nick Foligno on the doorstep, who stuffed a shot into Lehtonen's pads. The puck trickled back out on the other side of the crease, where Johansen was there to slam the rebound home.
2-2 tie - Ryan Johansen (2nd, 2nd of game) at 14:22, from Nick Foligno and Jack Johnson - PPG
Johansen may not have his "game legs" back 100% yet, but man, he looks as sharp as ever otherwise. He connected with Atkinson on a gorgeous pass later in the period that almost netted another goal, and he has an other-worldly chemistry going with Atkinson and Foligno already despite not having played or practiced with them AT ALL through training camp.
"Every day I'm feeling more comfortable," Johansen said. "That's the goal for me, and my job is to get to the level I want to be at. I just keep trying to improve every day."
After an odd Foligno/Jamie Benn fight to end the period, the Jackets' fans saluted them as they went to the dressing room all square, a far cry from the end of the first period.
End of 2nd - 2-2 Tie
The third period had a feel of "next goal wins," and as it turns out that was the case. Atkinson almost did it in the first minute, as he blocked a shot at the blue line which gave him a full-ice break-away. He deked, and put the puck into Lehtonen's pads, but then immediately dropped his stick in disgust.
"My stick was broken the entire break-away," Atkinson said. "As soon as I went forehand to backhand, I could tell. I just tried to go five-hole, to get the puck on net. As soon as I blocked the shot, it just snapped."
That would loom large, as the Stars--again--had the jump early in the period. Both teams had their chances, as they finished the game tied with 35 shots apiece. But, it was the Stars' top line--again--that had the answer. Jamie Benn was again afforded too much time and space, and he gathered the puck high near the left point. He ripped a slapshot that Seguin was able to redirect as he was being taken down in front of the goal. Bob never had a chance.
3-2 Stars - Tyler Seguin (2nd, 2nd of game) at 12:16, from Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski - EV
When I asked Bobrovsky if he had a chance to even see the puck change direction, he said that he didn't. "It was too close."
"Not much you can do about a guy falling and tipping the puck in," said Johansen.
The Jackets certainly had their chances to tie it back up, including multiple looks from Matt Calvert and Wennberg. In the final minute with Bobrovsky pulled, they had three faceoffs in the Stars' zone, with their best look coming with about 30 seconds left as Atkinson ripped a shot from the blue line through traffic and with Hartnell camped out in front, but in the end they just couldn't solve Lehtonen.
"We weren't ready," Foligno said. "We weren't ready for the start of the game, and I don't know what the reason for that is. We looked like we were flat, we didn't have a lot of jump in our game. They were a hungry team, and we knew that. We just didn't match their intensity. It cost us tonight. We battled back, but they find a way to get another one and we just couldn't find the equalizer. But, that's what happens when you start games late."
Benn would feed Cody Eakin, who hit Seguin for the empty net tap in with 1 second on the clock to give Seguin a hat trick.
4-2 Stars - Tyler Seguin (3rd, 3rd of game) at 19:59, from Cody Eakin and Jamie Benn - EV/EN
Final Score - 4-2 Stars
- Ryan Johansen - Two goals, three assists, five points in three games. Without playing in training camp. If they can all stay healthy, that line is going to be scary good.
- Jamie Benn - That dude is a destroyer. I know Seguin got the hat trick, but Benn did most of the heavy lifting. Good Lord, if the Stars ever get another winger to play with those two, look out. I mean, for real.
- Goaltending - I thought both goalies were great tonight. Kari Lehtonen was just a little bit better, and despite a shaky second period I thought he won this game for Dallas. "He played really well," Foligno said. "We thought after the two we could keep pushing, but he closed the door pretty well."
Bottom of the Barrel
- Early Period Effort - Obviously, the first was costly. But, I felt like the Stars drove the play in the early parts of all three periods. For the Jackets to have ignored their coach's pleas for a fast start hurts, especially since they fell behind 2-0 so quickly.
- Matt Calvert - I don't know if he's snake-bit, or what, but he looks like he's the one that missed all of training camp. I know once he gets that first one, it will all settle down. But man, he can't buy a goal right now, and he had some prime chances.
- 40's line - Hartnell finished -4 on the night and had just two hits. Wennberg is almost as snake-bit as Calvert, but you can see the hockey IQ. Anisimov was invisible for a lot of the night. I feel like that line's going to break out again soon, especially once Wennberg breaks the seal, but tonight they were a combined -10.
- Marko Dano - Tough night for the kid, as he got bumped down to the fourth line (deservedly so). That said, he did draw the tripping penalty from which the Jackets got their PP goal that tied it up in the second.
This one stings a bit, but the Jackets get a chance to get back in the win column Friday night when a pretty bad Calgary team visits Nationwide.