Game #66 Recap: Directed Anger
The Jackets went down hard in the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes, but after a little bit of emotion and a lot of good work on the power play, they brought themselves all the way back before defeating the Canes in a shootout.
With the way this season has gone, fans could be forgiven for watching the Jackets skate out to face the Hurricanes down in Raleigh, see Justin Faulk (not Falk) score a goal against a badly screened Sergei Bobrovsky in the first thirty seconds of the game, and changing the channel.
An early goal against has been the sign of a long night to come for much of the year, and through the first period, it didn't look like it was going to be any different.
Carolina kept finding holes in the Jackets defensive coverage, putting pressure on Bobrovksy, and eventually put Fedor Tyutin in the box after he had to do some stickwork to keep Eric Staal from capitalizing on another scoring chance.
The ensuing power play looked oddly similar to Carolina's first goal, drawing the PK down to the near side boards, and opening up Victor Rask for a wide open shot from the far faceoff dot that would give the Canes a 2-0 lead.
It wasn't all doom and gloom, though - in fact, the one positive in the period would be the Columbus power play finally cashing in after what seems like a month of futility. Late in the power play, with former Jacket Ron Hainsey in the box thanks to Brandon Dubinsky drawing a tripping call, David Savard lead a zone entry, skating it in deep and then moving to set up a cycle. Dubinsky would get the puck over to Cam Atkinson, who slid around the far side before firing a shot from the half boards that would redirect off Rene Bourque's stick and in, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
The team celebrated Bourque's first as a Jacket briefly, but found themselves back on the kill almost immediately after when Marko Dano was called for a slash on Jeff Skinner.
The Carolina power play wasn't as organized this time around, but they had a very similar game plan, and it worked again - force the defenders deep, build a screen around Bob to one side, then kick the puck up to the opposite corner, where in this case Eric Staal was waiting to deliver a booming shot that would restore the Hurricanes' 2 goal lead with just a few seconds left in the frame.
It was a frustrating scene to watch, and clearly Sergei had enough, as he slammed his stick down to the ice after the goal and gave Dalton Prout an earful of his displeasure.
Hard to say what was said in the locker room in between periods, but I suspect it had a lot of expletives mixed with "I am TIRED of this."
To their credit? The team listened.
They hit the ice skating, with Alexander Wennberg drawing a penalty on his first shift back out, and even though it took most of the penalty, the power play once again cashed in, this time with Scott Hartnell going to the net after a #HartnellDown and digging around Cam Ward to poke the loose puck into the net.
The team couldn't quite clear themselves out of the hole that they'd dug, but there were clear signs of improvement - for one thing, they killed two more Carolina penalties without furthering their deficit.
That set the team up for a third period where they were looking for one more goal, and yet another power play would help them find it, this time thanks to Scott Hartnell drawing a cross checking call from Justin Faulk, and it would be Hartnell who came up with the goal once again, this time working off the faceoff dot to collect a rebound from Artem Anisimov's doorstep attempt and popping it over Ward's shoulder before the former Conn Smythe winner could get back into position.
The 3-3 tie lasted through the end of regulation, and though the Jackets had some very good chances in OT, including an attempt by Hartnell to complete the hat trick in the dying seconds of the extra frame, we' d be off to a shootout.
Both goalies were excellent in that extra frame, with Bobrovsky stopping Elias Lindholm, and Rask, while Ward stoned Mark Letestu and Artem Anisimov, leaving Ryan Johansen with the final attempt for Columbus.
He took the ice with a chance to give his team the win, and it. was. FILTHY.
Carolina had a chance to force more shooters with Jeff Skinner, but Bob wasn't having any of that.
It was an improbable, shocking, surprising result, but the team needed this - no matter what you think about the philosophy of tanking, there's nothing fun about being in a room where you've lost every game. You need those moments of success - of effort being rewarded - to keep things from becoming toxic.
In his postgame remarks, Coach Richards said he didn't like seeing Bobrovsky lose his cool on the ice, and I see his point, but at the same time, I think this was the turning point of the game for a lot of reasons. Not only did it clearly yank the team out of their doldrums, letting that anger out rather than simply bottling it up or turning it inwards is always going to be healthier. Get it out in the open, let some fresh air in, and get going again.
I'm not saying Bob should pull a Tuukka every game, but it was effective. Still, let's hope the team can handle Detroit on Thursday WITHOUT requiring a meltdown this time.