Game 25 Recap: Penguins Slide Through Jackets
Well, the good news is there are 57 more games this season.
Also, the Jackets did get a power play goal, so there's that!
The bad news? Well...
From the start, the Jackets looked tired. Pittsburgh had a jump on them, and registered six shots in the first five minutes, while the Jackets were kept off the shot clock entirely despite a few rushes and a series of thunderous hits.
As the Jackets went to the PK on a Chris Clark Slashing call just past the six minute mark, the defense was actually pretty solid for the first minute, but a failed clear game Paul Martin a chance to walk in and attack the net, and his shot caromed off Mike Commodore's skate and past Mason's leg pad for the 1-0 lead.
A few minutes later, Mike Rupp would fire a shot from the far boards that seemed harmless as Steve Mason left his crease to challenge the shot, but he was unable to close down his five hole properly, and the shot slowly trickled through, like watching a car crash in slow motion.
(Just a thought on watching the replay - as much as we're not entirely quite joking about "the curse of the third jerseys", I do think it seems like Mason's movements in his new Third Jersey set of pads do not seem as fluid as his "normal" gear. I wonder if he didn't get enough time to break them in?)
The Jackets would be unable to convert on a power play a few minutes later, and then went back to the penalty box when Marc Methot lost control of his stick during a board battle and clipped Sidney Crosby on the chin.
During the penalty kill, R.J. Umberger had a brilliant shorthanded opportunity, pouncing on a loose puck in the Pens' zone and getting the pass to Antoine Vermette, who turned and rifled a shot at Marc-Andre Fleury, but the shot went wide of the goal.
Unfortunately, the Pens would rush up ice on the same play after the shorthanded attack and score again, with a weak clearing attempt by Rostislav Klesla finding its' way to Paul Martin's stick, and he beat Mason again for the 3-0 lead.
Just to add insult to injury, Ethan Moreau would be whistled for a slash when he battled with Kris Letang for a puck and Letang's stick broke, though it didn't appear Moreau actually touched the D-man's stick, and Pittsburgh would score on this penalty as well, a tap in by Sidney Crosby after the Pens were able to dominate the zone and the Jackets were unsuccessful in clearing the puck for the majority of the penalty.
Steve Mason was pulled after the goal in favor of Mathieu Garon, but the team did not show a noticable improvement - even a double minor at the end of the period to Matt Cooke did not generate any scoring chances - and the first period ended with the Jackets outshot 16-2.
Yes, that's sixteen shots for the Pens, and two for the Jackets.
The second period opened with a bit more jump, and the Jackets doubled their shot total for the game in the first few minutes, but the Pens would find an answer as Mark Letestu would hammer a pair of shots from the side of the net, catching his own rebound off the iron for the first one, then off Garon's pads, and the goaltender was unable to freeze the rebound, allowing Tyler Kennedy to poke it in for the 5-0 lead.
The Jackets would at least break the shutout a few minutes later, with Rusty Klesla grabbing a puck along the boards after Ethan Moreau rimmed it along the back of the zone, then firing from the top of the blue line, and Sammy Pahlsson collecting the rebound to roof it past Fleury.
With the local fans cheering once again, and a temporary stop to the deluge of "Let's Go Pens!" chants, the Jackets seemed to be finding their legs a bit when Mike Rupp and Jared Boll engaged in a bit of debate off a faceoff, and were both sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct when the refs broke them up before either player could drop his gloves.
Unfortunately, in the ensuing 4-on-4, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz were able to break past Rusty Klesla after an attempt to chip the puck into the Penguins' zone landed on Kunitz' stick, and Garon went the wrong way on the two on one. Methot tried to block the pass, but the puck hopped past his stick blade and Crosby was able to shoot on an empty net for his second of the evening.
As more than a few Jackets fans began to make their way towards the exits, Jared Boll decided to attempt to do something for the remaining locals, stepping out of the penalty box and engaging in a spirited bout with Rupp. Unfortunately, the temporary boost did not last, and the Pens were able to take advantage of another failed clearing pass late in the period, with Deryk Engelland stepping in front of a clearing attempt from Dorsett and firing the puck from the blue line and in past Garon.
Down 7-1 now, the second period came to a bitter end.
In the second period, the coach did not allow a player to come out to speak to the press, which may have been for the best.
Whatever was said, it seemed to have at least gotten the Jackets' power play going, with Craig Adams in the box for a holding penalty at the start of the third period, Tyutin was able to rush the puck up ice into the Penguin zone, drop a pass to Chris Clark, and Clark was able to fire a quick wrister past Fleury on his glove side.
For the rest of the game, the Jackets had a few more chances, but could not capitalize. On the other hand, they also prevented the Pens from doing any further damage. I suppose I'll take my small victories where I can find them.
One note of concern is that Rick Nash did not play for a sizable part of the third period, though he did take a shift for the final 30 seconds of the game. Hopefully this was not a sign of another injury and just due to an equipment problem.
I'm not doing a standard bearer or bottom of the barrel today, as there's too damn few of one, and too damn many of the other. Tonight flat out sucked for Jackets fans, and with only one day to practice before Dallas comes in on Monday night, I have to wonder what that matchup will bring.
I'm not panicking yet, but I have to wonder what else Scott Arniel and Scott Howson will have up their sleeves.