Game #39 Recap: Jackets Explode For 6-3 Win Over Stars
After a rough weekend following the holiday break, the Blue Jackets took on the best team in the NHL...and blew their doors off?Ok then.
Going into Tuesday night's game, it's fair to say that all was not well in Blue Jackets land.
After rough losses on both of their post-holiday games in Florida, things got pretty ugly on Monday, with virtually every aspect of the team's makeup, performance, and personnel being raked over the coals by the media, the coaches, and themselves.
The team's confidence seemed to be at an all time low, and fans weren't much ahead of them. Not a good look when the team on top of the NHL standings walks into town.
Fans held their breath after the strains of the National Anthem faded from Nationwide Arena....and then leapt to their feet, cheering, when Boone Jenner cleaned up some garbage around Kari Lehtonen to give Columbus the 1-0 lead.
After that early excitement, though, the Jackets allowed the Stars to put the boots to them for the next few minutes, culminating in a scramble around Curtis McElhinney that ended with Colton Scievour (is that even a real name?) tying the game up after the Blue Jackets defense had allowed 11 unanswered shots.
Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno, who had been relegated to the fourth line by head coach Tortorella, would provide a spark after the tying goal, doing some excellent work to keep possession in the Dallas zone before lining up Kevin Connauton for a perfect shot just off the faceoff dot that would slam home for the 2-1 lead.
Things looked a little dicey when Fedor Tyutin took a hooking penalty midway through the period, but the PK stood up, and with a few minutes left in the period, when Matt Calvert pulled off a highlight reel goal, picking up the pass from Wild Bill Karlsson and whipping it past Lehtonen as he fell to extend the lead.
Lehtonen would be left in the net for the final minute of the first period, but it would be Antti Niemi who lead Dallas out at the start of the second,
The Stars came out skating hard for the second, and the Jackets did their best to match, but weren't able to cash in on some good looks from both Johansen and Saad.
Unfortunately, it would be Tyler Seguin who found the next goal, thanks to John Klingberg hitting Jamie Benn with a pass from below the Dallas goal line all the way to the red line, with Benn setting up his linemate with a nice dish to send him in on McElhinney.
Fans couldn't be blamed for thinking "Oh, here we go again", particularly when Scott Hartnell took a poorly timed slashing penalty, but the Jackets managed to hang on (with a little help from the post on a couple of occasions), keeping the pressure up into the final minutes of the period, when Brandon Saad cleaned up the garbage around the net to restore a two goal lead for the home team.
(Nick Foligno would have the secondary assist on the goal, which was his 300th NHL point. Congratulations, Captain - it's nice to have some good news for him!)
In the third period, Patrick Sharp would pull the Stars back within a goal off the rush, but Scott Hartnell would make up for his earlier gaffe a few minutes later, racing into the Dallas zone and picking off an attempt by Niemi to move the puck back up ice, giving himself a wide open net to shoot on.
From there, it got a little crazy.
After Patrick Sharp was denied on a breakaway attempt my C-Mac, Rene Bourque and Johnny Oduya would go off for coincidental minors, and Stars head coach Lindy Ruff decided to pull Niemi with a bit more than five minutes to go for an extra attacker. Dallas had a couple good chances with the man advantage, but McElhinney was up for the task, and the one shot at the empty net from Brandon Dubinsky would get blocked away by Jamie Benn, and after the penalties expired Ruff would decide to put Niemi back into the net on the next stoppage of play.
Unfortunately, the next major event in the period came when Matt Calvert got nailed with a nasty hit in the neutral zone, and went down the tunnel with what appeared to be an injured leg. No updates from the team on that tonight, but Calvert did not return to the game.
Dallas would pull Niemi once again, and this time Rene Bourque would find the empty net to salt this one away, the fans finally leaving Nationwide Arena with some excitement for what seems like the first time in forever.
Final Score - Jackets 6, Dallas 3
So what do we make of this?
No doubt it was a fantastic team effort, and full credit to Mac, who stopped 40 shots, including some nasty looks from two of the top five scorers in the league right now, but it's hard to say what we can take away from this.
The Jackets have their backs well and truly against the wall right now, and they finally came out swinging. But it's one game - a fantastic game! - but only one game. Can they sustain this? Unfortunately, I doubt it.
But it's a flash of excitement. It's a bit of hope. It's a positive note for their last game in 2015 - and maybe we can see a little more of that coming when they face the Caps on Saturday night.