In what amounted to a must-win game for both teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets took on the Minnesota Wild in a rare Saturday matinee. The Blue Jackets came into the game losers of two in a row and nine of their last eleven, including Thursday night's 2-0 home stinker against the hated Red Wings. The Wild were playing their first home game after an 0-4 road trip that saw them fall further out of the playoff picture. I'm not a huge fan of using the term March Madness to refer to anything other than the college basketball tournament. This game had the ebb and flow (and horrible officiating) of an NCAA basketball game though.
The Blue Jackets, perhaps looking for a spark, started backup goaltender Mathieu Garon and he was tested often in the early parts of the game. Early in the first the Jackets would continue to have the same troubles that plagued them in recent games: goalies giving up rebounds, shots missing the net, odd-man rushes resulting in no shots on goal, poor passing, I could go on. Cue Rick Nash. Jumping onto the ice for one of his many dominant shifts, the Captain took a pass in the high slot from a cruising Derek Dorsett, skated toward the net and buried a wrist-shot low glove-side on Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom. It was a beauty of a goal and one that ended his career-long eleven game streak without one. Just as it felt that maybe things would go the Jackets way today, the officiating reared it's ugly head. The Jackets first line was controlling the puck in the Minnesota end, putting good pressure on the Wild. Blue Jackets winger Jakub Voracek turned the puck over along the wall, sending the Wild the other way. As he was skating out, Blue Jackets center Derick Brassard was leveled by Clayton Stoner with a high hit that was quite obviously interference at the least since Brassard neither had the puck or had played it recently. Minnesota took advantage with a 3 on 2 the other way and Brad Staubitz buried the puck into a wide-open net off a nifty feed through traffic by John Madden. The first period ended with no more scoring, although Jackets center Sammy Pahlsson was denied by Backstrom on a 2 on 1.
The second period started with the Wild on the offensive. Garon made a nice glove save on Cal Clutterbuck and Jan Hejda made a nice defensive play on a streaking Wild player near the net to stick check him and prevent another goal. Then the officials decided to get involved again. Wild center Mikko Koivu tripped Upshall rather blatantly as he was racing for a loose puck. Upshall took exception and turned around to have some words with Koivu. Offsetting roughing penalties ensued, apparently meaning the blatant trip went undetected? The Wild would strike next after the offsetting penalties ended. Koivu, an excellent fore-checker, picked up an errant puck in the Jacket's zone and found Cal Clutterbuck alone in the slot. This time Garon couldn't make the save. This was Clutterbuck's 19th of the year. He has four against the Jackets. Play got even more chippy as the second period continued, and the refereeing got even more interesting. Jackets defenseman Sami Lepisto went behind the net to gather the puck and was hit up high by Brad Staubitz. Play continued, meaning to me that no penalty would ensue since the referee did not have his arm up. Blue Jackets winger Derek Dorsett however took exception to the hit and went after the much bigger Staubitz. The fight was uneventful, Staubitz peeled off Dorsett's lid and landed a couple rabbit punches to the top of Dorsett's head, Dorsett countered with a couple rights to the face, then Staubitz dumped Dorsett onto his back. It took a couple minutes for the refs to sort everything out and we ended up with Staubitz with 2 for charging (weird – no arm up before the fight remember) and 5 for fighting and Dorsett collecting 2 for instigator (somewhat questionable) 5 for fighting and 10 for misconduct (not sure why...). This set up a 4 on 4 opportunity and it would be the Jackets that would cash in. Lepisto found Nash in the slot, who whiffed on a one-timer, the puck traveled back to Lepisto who then found defenseman Kris Russell at the point. Russell launched a one-timer that found the back of the net. The second period ended with the Wild putting some pressure on but no more scoring.
The third period was controlled by the Jackets and they used their opportunities to both take the lead and increase it. Nash sent a pass to Jan Hejda who launched a laser beam from the point that found pay dirt and Nash collected his second of the game off a nifty cross-ice pass from Brassard. 4-2 Jackets roughly 6 minutes remaining. I sighed and relaxed into my chair. Oops. The Wild struck right back with a goal from winger Antti Miettinen that was horribly played by Kris Russell. Then the refs struck yet again. Down a goal and desperate for points the Wild were pressing the Jackets zone very well. Then Derek Dorsett and Wild winger Martin Havlat over-skated a loose puck in the Jackets zone. Havlat reached out and grabbed Dorsett in a hug to prevent him from clearing the puck, pulling his helmet off in the process. Amazingly play was allowed to continue which must have shocked the Blue Jackets as they left Wild winger Pierre-Marc Bouchard all by his lonesome on the doorstep and he deposited the tying goal with relative ease. Regulation ended with the score 4-4. The game went into overtime, and the Wild dictated play for 4 minutes, with Garon making a few great saves on Koivu to prevent the loss. The shootout seemed inevitable until Nash took over again. Taking control of the puck in their own end Nash barreled through the neutral zone into the Wild end. The puck ended up next to the net on the stick of the Wild's usually reliable defenseman Brent Burns. Burns looked to be attempting to make a pass out of the zone when he whiffed completely sending the puck towards the goal. Antoine Vermette corralled the puck and didn't miss, ending the game.
- This is the Jacket's 17th road win of the season, a club record.
- Blue Jackets defenseman Grant Clitsome was injured in a collision with Wild center Mikko Koivu late in the second period and did not return. After the game Jackets coach Scott Arniel seemed to think it wasn't serious, but I doubt he plays tomorrow against New Jersey.
- Rick Nash scored his 30th and 31st goals of the season meaning he joins Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla as the only two players to record at least 30 goals in every season since the lockout. Others could match the feat before the end of the season. Nash was an absolute monster on the ice today, logging 2 goals, 2 assists, 2 takeaways, and 7 shots on goal in just over 20 minutes of ice time. Just when you think the captain might be looking forward to the golf courses...
- Before the last face-off of the game in OT Minnesota game-ops played the song Machinehead by Bush. The Blue Jackets used to use Machinehead as entry music when coming on the ice at home.
- My wife, who is not a huge hockey fan, thinks the Wild have the worst uniform set in pro sports. She called them Santa's elves today. I have to admit they are pretty ugly.
- The Blue Jackets did not have a power play today.