After the shocking events in Dallas, you couldn't be blamed for wondering how the Blue Jackets would react to having to play the next day. Even if the game had been played as planned, having to fly back from Dallas and take on an opponent who'd been off since Sunday would have been a fairly tall order.
With that in mind, it wasn't too shocking that the Red Wings had a pretty solid command of the early first period, but it was frustrating to see Jack Johnson taking a tripping call just over a minute in, followed by James Wisniewski being sent to the box for delay of game just after the first penalty expired. (Wiz was pushed into his own net, but looking at the replays it seems like he also gave the cage a bit of a push to ensure it would come off and prevent Detroit from scoring.)
Despite that, Sergei Bobrovsky was on his game and kept the Jackets alive through their early troubles, while Petr Mrazek, who went in at the last second for an ill Jimmy Howard, stopped the few opportunities the Jackets could carve out as they fought to get their feet under them.
It looked like a game where the first little mistake would cost the team who made it, and unfortunately that's just what happened to Columbus.
After David Legwand won a draw in the Jackets' zone, the puck squirted away from the forecheck and hopped right to Danny DeKeyser, who skated into a hard slapshot that would zip past Bob.
Things looked like they might go from bad to worse after Blake Comeau blasted Brendan Smith against the boards, and managed to pick up both a boarding call and a diving penalty after he flopped to the ice following a retaliatory crosscheck.
(Comeau only received a minor for the hit, but the team was informed after the game that he will be having a phone hearing with the department of player safety on Wednesday.)
Surprisingly, the team snapped back to themselves after all that kerfuffle, managing to get out of their own zone and starting to put some pressure onto Mrazek. With about five minutes left in the period, Nathan Horton would fight his way from behind the Red Wings net and up to the half boards, where he slipped the puck to a wide open Nick Schultz. The newest Jackets' D-man sent a shot in on net, and Nick Foligno battled for the rebound, got control, got knocked to his stomach, and still managed to stuff the shot home while lying flat on the ice for the tying goal.
Despite being outshot 18-8, the Jackets clawed their way back above water by the end of the first, and finally started to really put some rubber onto Mrazek in the second, though neither team would find a way to score in the middle frame.
As the third period wound on, it seemed like this game was heading towards overtime - exactly what the Jackets didn't want - if someone didn't find a way to change things up.
Enter the Jenner.
Boone Jenner was pursuing the puck deep in the Detroit zone, battling against Cory Emmerton before skating out from the boards. Turning as he passed the right faceoff, he converted his momentum into a fast wrist shot that surprised Mrazek almost as much as it did the crowd.
The 2-1 lead might have been enough with the way Bob was playing, but for the first time in a while, the Jackets actually pushed harder after gaining the lead. Nathan Horton and Matt Calvert battled their way through the entire Detroit forecheck to break the puck out and head down the ice. Then, once Calvert gained the zone he charged down to the net with Brandon Dubinsky, feeding Dubi the puck even as he was checked to the ice. Dubi crossed the "T" in the crease with a sweet little deke before firing up and into the open corner of the net to extend the lead to 3-1.
In the space of :40, the Jackets went from a nail-biter to a commanding lead, and they weren't done.
Facing a stiff counterattack from the likes of Tomas Jurco and Daniel Alfredsson, head coach Todd Richards made the decision to give the energy line of Comeau, Letestu, and MacKenzie a shift, hoping for a chance to disrupt the Wings' comeback attempt.
What he got was a hard charge into the offensive zone by Comeau, who chased down a loose puck behind the net, then passed to Mark Letestu at the side of the net.
Letestu was quickly surrounded by red jerseys, but he found a passing lane to Derek MacKenzie (including catching the rebound from his initial blocked pass before getting it through), and D-Mac tucked it home to nail the lid shut.
The final minutes ticked away, and to their credit, the Wings did their best to cut the deficit, but Bob and the suddenly galvanized defense had everything they needed to salt this one away, pushing themselves right into the heart of the playoff picture.
Final Score: Jackets 4 - Red Wings 1
- Sergei Bobrovsky - No Bob, no win. That simple. Stopping 39 of 40 shots, if he hadn't been sharp, this easily could have been a 3-0 or 4-1 game at the end of the first period, and who knows what would have happened? The team gave him the offensive support he deserved, but Bob was the foundation.
- Boone Jenner - Huge goal. That makes Boone's fourth GWG of the season so far, just one game winner behind some guy named Nathan MacKinnon among rookies. On top of that, his goal also puts him at 20 points for the season with room to grow. Not bad at all for a rookie year.
- Nick Foligno - Seriously, watch that goal. Filth. Pure, glorious, filth. He's now tied his career best in goals with 17, and I wouldn't be shocked if we see him break the 20 goal mark before all is said and done.
- The Metropolitan Division and their opponents - Columbus got pretty much every possible bit of help they could ask for on the out of town scoreboard. Philly, New York, Washington, and Toronto all lost, giving the Jackets third place in the division and within two points of both second place in the Metro and the top wildcard spot.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- Blake Comeau - To paraphrase Dennis Leary: "Blake, this is God, what the hell were you thinking?" I've no doubt that his long stint in the press box has made him eager to show how he can impact the game, but I don't think that's quite what the team had in mind.
- Rough Start - There's a lot of factors that went into it, some of them completely unique, but the Jackets weren't ready to go, and it easily could have burned them.
If this had been a 2-1 win, we'd probably have said the Jackets scraped by, and in fairness, the first two periods really weren't much to write home about, but they turned around and delivered a huge third period - pretty much a textbook performance for how to take control of a game in a playoff race. If you hear people wondering if this team is for real, you point them back to this game.
66 down (minus Dallas). 16 to go.