The game started with some unexpected news - while the team got some help on the blue line with the return of Ryan Murray, the forward lines would be without the injured Cam Atkinson, the unexpectedly reassigned Alexander Wennberg, and surprisingly, Matt Calvert, who took the warmups, but left the ice early, apparently suffering a lingering hurt from Friday night's game.
Though head coach Todd Richards spoke out about avoiding a slow start, the Blue Jackets still spent the opening minutes weathering a hard charge from the Kings. Corey Tropp made a move to change things with a booming hit against Justin Williams. Matt Greene took exception to the collision, and after the dust settled, the Jackets were looking at the first power play of the game, with Tropp off for fighting, and Greene receiving a fighting major, instigator minor, and a game misconduct.
Unfortunately, almost before the power play began, Scott Hartnell would get involved in a fracas at the Kings bench, and would be sent off for roughing to even the ice back up.
Despite that early excitement, things were fairly slow until the latter half of the period, when Adam Cracknell drew an interference penalty, sending Drew Doughty off for two minutes.
Early in the power play, Ryan Johansen fired a hard shot in towards the net, which deflected off Scott Hartnell at the top of the crease. Jonathan Quick tried to slide to the left, anticipating a shot, but the rebound went to the right. Tim Erixon pinching down from the point, found the loose puck and fired into the empty net for his first NHL goal.
That goal was the first time the Blue Jackets had scored the first goal in the game going back to the match against Calgary on October 17th, and extended Johansen's point streak to eight games - perhaps the best news of the day, in hindsight.
That 1-0 lead held through the end of the first period, but things changed quickly in the second.
Artem Anisimov was whistled for Goaltender Interference, after being knocked into Quick by an LA defender. It wasn't a very good call, but things got worse less than a minute into the Kings' power play, when Johansen would also be sent off for a hooking penalty.
With the Stanley Cup Champions working a two man advantage, it felt like a matter of time before they scored, and indeed, it wasn't long before Tyler Toffoli took a shot that hit a body in front and drifted into open ice, where Jeff Carter (of course) was able to find the loose puck and send it home.
With the game now 1-1, the Jackets had several prime chances on Quick, starting with a Ryan Johansen breakaway as he came out of the penalty box, but the former Conn Smythe winner was superb, stoning the Johan, then following that up by shutting down a point blank attack from Anisimov, the followup chance from Corey Tropp, and an excellent redirect attempt few minutes later from Hartnell.
The Jackets carried the play through much of the period, keeping up the pressure and forcing Quick to make some impressive saves. So, unsurprisingly, LA would get the tiebreaker.
The "Seventies Line" would factor in here, too. This time, Jeff Carter set up the play by faking a shot that fooled Bob and the Blue Jackets defense, and instead whipping a pin point pass over to Toffoli, who had a wide open net to hit.
It seemed like the goal had barely finished being announced when the Kings were right back at it , and this time it was just...well...screwy.
Dwight King came into the zone on a rush with Justin Wiliams, took a shot, saw the puck fly up into the air off the rebound, batted the rebound out of the air, bounced it off the ice, got the puck under control, and popped it past Bob at a sharp angle to give LA a 3-1 lead.
With just under a minute to go, it looked like Columbus would end the period on the wrong end of a three goal swing, but then Mark Letestu decided to go house, busting through the neutral zone, lining up his shot, and slamming it top corner to give the Jackets a bit of life headed into the second intermission.
The Jackets did, in fact, come out swinging, but didn't find a good answer for Quick in the first few minutes. As their surge of energy ebbed, the Kings responded, but the Columbus defense was ready. It seemed like we were primed for an exciting period - perhaps even with the seeds of a "San Jose" like comeback.
But then...everything changed.
Nick Foligno was battling with Jeff Carter for the puck at the LA bench. Heading into the offensive zone, the two tangled up at the boards. Linesman Shayne Hayer tried to jump up onto the Kings' bench to get out of the way, but instead he would collide with Foligno, sending his head snapping back, and play abruptly stopped as he fell to the ice, motionless.
Jackets' trainer Mike Vogt immediately went to Foligno's side, and moments later additional medical staff was called out from behind the bench.
What had been a fairly noisy, well attended game became utterly silent as players from both teams converged at center ice, waiting for news. After several agonizing minutes, the medical staff positioned Foligno on a stretcher, and began to take him off the ice.
To the roaring applause of the crowd, Foligno was able to raise his hands for a "thumbs up" as he was taken to the medical room, and was seen speaking to the doctors - both extremely encouraging signs.
Team president John Davidson later announced via the TV broadcast that Foligno had feeling and motion in all of his limbs, and was going to be "OK", but it was clear that the team's minds were (quite understandably) not 100% on the game from that point.
Tanner Pearson would put two nails in the coffin, one about a minute after play resumed, and the second a few minutes later, but I cannot blame the Jackets here - after such a painful, emotional shock, and such a scary injury to a friend, it's disrespectful to expect them to be unfeeling robots who somehow pick back up and start playing as if nothing has happened.
The team will fly home, regroup, and recover. There's a rematch with the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, and perhaps they'll have a few guys back in the lineup.
Tonight, we are glad to hear that Foligno's injury was not as serious as it originally appeared, and wish him a speedy recovery. Everything else is just background noise.