Game #34 Recap: Jackets Thrash Coyotes, 7-5
No Jack Johnson. No Johansen. No Bob. No Savard. No problem?
Fans and pundits alike were concerned about head coach John Tortorella's decision to scratch Ryan Johansen - after all, it wasn't like goals were coming easily for this Blue Jackets squad lately - but those concerns were eased less than a minute into the game, thanks to Scott Hartnell slipping the puck up into the neutral zone for Alexander Wennberg, who broke into the zone before dropping a perfect feed to Brandon Saad to hammer home for the 1-0 lead.
As if that wasn't enough, Matt Calvert would get set up on the next shift by Cam Atkinson, and Matty Hustle pounded it home for one of the fastest 2-0 leads we've seen the team establish all season.
Former Jacket Antoine Vermette would cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the first period, but that score held through the frame and well into the second, when Scott Hartnell would take a holding penalty after getting tied up with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Though the PK handled themselves well, Victor Tikhonov would find a loose puck in a scramble in the dying seconds of the man advantage to tie the game, and before the Coyote howl had died down, Tobias Rieder found the room he needed to give the Coyotes their first lead of the game - and send the scoring off to the races.
Alexander Wennberg would connect to tie things up again, then Cam Atkinson restored the lead (with Curtis McElhinney picking up an assist!) on a quick rush. That goal spelled the end of the night for Anders Lindback, who would be replaced by Louis Domingue, followed by Jordan Martinook tying things up again at 4 with a shot that went off Kevin Connaton's skate.
Unfortunately for Mr. Domingue, the fireworks hadn't quite come to an end. As the second period wound down, Brandon Saad would pick Shane Doan's pocket as he entered the Blue Jackets' zone, then turned and wired a textbook stretch pass to Nick Foligno, springing him past the Coyotes' defense. The Captain loaded up, fired, and the Jackets would go to the locker room with the lead once again.
If you wanted an exclamation mark for this game, the third period would open with a pretty great one thanks to DAVEY CLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARKMAN, who scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket by crashing the net and picking up a good feed from behind the net by Scott Hartnell.
A bit of scrambling set in after Clarkson's goal, and the Jackets found themselves out of position on their next shift, giving Rieder the chance to score his second of the game to cut the lead to 6-5.
Despite a scary moment when McElhinney was trucked over by Max Domi after the goaltender came out to challenge the young forward, that score would hold until the final minutes, when Domingue would be called to the bench for an extra attacker. However, unlike some of the Jackets' recent collapses, Brandon Dubinsky was able to nail the lid down with a beauty of an empty netter to seal the deal.
Final Score: Jackets 7 - Coyotes 5.
After outshooting the Stars and getting blown out, there's something oddly satisfying about scoring 7 goals on ~20 shots. If only we could make them all count so well.
This was a big game for Clarkson, obviously, to get his first goal, but it also marked C-Mac's first win of the season, and even though a .844 SV% isn't great, tonight, it was enough.
The larger concern, particularly with how the team has been banged up (again) has to be McElhinney's condition after that hit from Domi. Seeing his helmet go flying was pretty scary - even though Bob was skating today, the last thing the team needs is the current starter going down with a concussion.
Much will be made of the offensive explosion, particularly given who was out of the lineup, but this was a sloppy game against an even sloppier opponent. Take the points, take the win, but don't take much more than that.
Torts Quote Of The Night: "We have played much better, and found ways to lose. But tonight...we could have played better, but we found a way to win. I'm just glad to see us get the win."
The Jackets fly home tonight, probably all go see The Force Awakens tomorrow, and will be back in Nationwide on Saturday to take on the Flyers. Hooooboy.