In fitting fashion for this season, the Columbus Blue Jackets could not start their post-holiday schedule without some buzz and some news. First, forward Scott Hartnell returned to the lineup after missing the last five games with a broken finger. Unfortunately, another player would be out - Sergei Bobrovsky apparently had too many Christmas cookies (unconfirmed) and would not play. Curtis McElhinney made his first start in a month and Anton Forsberg was recalled to be his backup. Oh, and there was the storyline of Milan Lucic "seeking his revenge," whatever that was supposed to mean.
Both teams came out a bit sluggish in this one and neither team appeared too crisp, which was not too surprising given the break. The physical play was there early and throughout most of the game. After some of the initial rust got kicked off, the scoring would get started.
In a bit of a fluky goal, Kevin Connauton fired a shot on Bruins goaltender Niklas Svedberg from the blue line. The puck hit Svedberg's shoulder and kicked out a high, soft rebound to his left. With Brandon Dubinsky battling towards front of the net, Scott Hartnell gathered the puck and just whacked a backhand towards the net and the puck found its way through Svedberg. It was Hartnell's seventh goal of the campaign and a quick welcome back just 8:11 into the game.
Much like the up and down nature of this season, the Jackets quickly conceded one not long after the fans' ears had stopped ringing from the shot of the cannon. Patrice Bergeron skated down the left slide with the puck and patiently waited. A sprawling Fedor Tyutin tried to cut off the passing lane, but he slid past Bergeron which opened up the middle of the ice. Bergeron skated in and fired it past McElhinney just 20 seconds after Hartnell's goal.
A couple minutes later, there was a scrum along the boards and of course Dalton Prout found Milan Lucic. Other than a couple shoves not a whole lot happened, but both players received two minutes for roughing.
The first period ended 1-1, but word came from the dressing room that winger Cam Atkinson was done for the night. On his second shift he took a hit into the boards on a dump in and would not return after playing all of 50 seconds. He was seen in a sling after the game. Just unbelievable.
The middle 20 minutes was a wild one and well worth the price of admission for the 16,795 in Nationwide Arena. Just 51 seconds into the period, Hartnell found the back of the net again. He made his way to the front of the net and deflected a shot/pass from James Wisniewski. Newcomer Kevin Connauton picked up another assist on the goal as well as the Jackets took back the lead.
Just a couple minutes later, Milan Lucic exacted his "revenge," taking a run at Prout. It was hard to see but it appeared Lucic was the aggressor, perhaps sensing his opportunity to strike with his team down a goal. Prout ate some punches early before landing a few late in the bout. Decision to Lucic but kudos to Prout for trying to square up and taking the hits. No word if this quells whatever beef there was between the two.
Just a couple minutes later, a bizarre sequence ensued in the Bruins end. Svedberg fought of a shot but again kicked out a high rebound. The puck hit Dennis Seidenberg in the helmet/mask as he had turned around, looking to clear. The puck then traveled towards the net, striking the crossbar. As Svedberg flailed his arms back in reaction, the puck found its way to the depths of the back of his left leg. It looked like the puck was lodged into the straps of his pad, but it was not clear where exactly the puck went. Either way, Svedberg went spread eagle and the goal horn went off erroneously. A celebration ensued, cannon and all, but the goal was overturned upon video review.
No matter. The Jackets went right back to work. Off of a faceoff to Svedberg's right, Dubinsky got the puck to Calvert who immediately tipped it back to Kevin Connauton. He took a few strides along the blue line (backwards) and fired a slap shot past Svedberg (goal counted this time). The puck appeared to be deflected by somebody in front but Connauton still has the goal as of this writing. And just like that, out was Svedberg and in was Tukka Rask.
Just a couple minutes later, Brad Marchand took what can only be described as a dumb penalty. After trying to crowd McElhinney several seconds after the whistle, the Jackets defensemen took exception and cleared the crease in the usual post-whistle shove/push fashion. Marchand took a swipe to the back of David Savard's legs with his stick. The officials were having none of it and sent Marchand to the box for two.
One of the few strong suits this season has been the power play. It took advantage again, and this time there was some nice puck movement in the zone before Johansen set up on the half wall to Rask's right. He found a passing line right through the middle of the Boston PK to Jack Johnson who had jumped up on the play. Johnson kicked the puck to his stick as was he down by the goal line. He pulled it back to his forehand, looked to the middle and found Nick Foligno on the doorstep. Once the puck got past Rask, it was just up to Foligno to flick it a few feet forward and he did just that. It capped off three goals in the first 9:26 of the period, with an anticipated fight and a goal that was waived off in between. Foligno continues his hot streak, netting his 17th (and league-leading 9th power play) goal of the season.
The Blue Jackets took back-to-back penalties in the middle of the period, killing off both Boston chances in which the Bruins had very few scoring chances. At 16:28, Boston would cut the lead to 4-2 on a double redirect. Initially, Craig Cunningham deflected a Gregory Campbell shot. The shot was heading to the far corner, but the deflection took it to the short side. McElhinney was already leaning to the far corner, but then as the puck was heading to the net it bounced in off Jack Johnson. CMac had no chance.
The Columbus forecheck got back to work and Matt Calvert finished off a nice shift late in the period. The energetic forward finished his check on Lucic along the boards in the offensive zone as Brandon Dubinsky tied up his defender. Calvert then spun away from Lucic and found the puck free in front of him. He gathered the puck and skated into the high slot almost uncontested. Matty then wristed the puck past Rask to the short side and beat him clean.
What a period it was. Four goals. A fight. A goalie change. And at the end, it was 5-2 CBJ.
Oh, of course it wouldn't be a Columbus period without what? An injury. Jack Skille left early in the 2nd period after taking a dump-in to the head/face and would not return.
Compared to the 2nd period, the final frame was uneventful. The Jackets rotated their forwards and kept shifts short. Michael Chaput took a tripping penalty, but the CBJ PK responded and have now killed off the last 23 opposing power plays. That was it in the way of the penalty box in the 3rd period.
For good measure, the Jackets tacked on another goal at 7:35. After some sustained offensive pressure, Jeremy Morin gathered the puck above the circle to Rask's right and roofed it past the netminder. Jack Johnson and Brandon Dubinsky picked up the assists and the goal closed the scoring to make it 6-2 Jackets.
The team seemed like they read Jeff's suggestions before the game. They lost Bob before the game, Cam in the first period, Skille in the second, and still managed to control the game. The effort level was there throughout and it really looked like it might have been their best game of the season given the circumstances. I have not seen any advanced stats yet, but it certainly seemed like the offensive pressure and puck possession was much more prevalent. Obviously the shots were there (those ended up evening out after the game was well in hand). It was an all-around fantastic effort.
-Welcome back Scott Hartnell.
-This Kevin Connauton kid is pretty good, huh? A couple of assists and a goal.
-CMac looked pretty strong in net, even limiting his rebounds. He stopped 26 of 28.
-Matt Calvert. Back to his tenacious self in 21:33 (!!??!!) of ice time and a slick wrister late in the 2nd.
-Really, everybody seemed to be playing well. Johansen won 20 of his 27 faceoffs. Jack Johnson had a couple of assists and four shots on net. Foligno was all over the ice again. And what was this...even strength goals??
-Congratulations to Todd Richards, picking up his 100th win behind the CBJ bench.
It would appear Cam could miss some time. He is likely out for the next game and perhaps even beyond that. Jack Skille will be evaluated tomorrow, perhaps for a concussion but the team is just saying "upper body" for both.
Just one more game remains in 2014 - the New Year's even tilt with the Minnesota Wild. Hopefully it will be as fun as this one was.