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"CARRY THE FLAG"
Columbus, OH • United States • 25 Years Old • Male
Following Wednesday night's loss to the San Jose Sharks, head coach Ken Hitchcock showed a rare bit of emotion and compassion for his players.

Vouching for a brief recovery following the departure of their captain and veteran Sergei Fedorov, Hitchcock made a point to right the ship quickly.

Seemingly down and out, clustered by the suffocating Vancouver "squeeze" (no, it's not the trap, it's the squeeze), the Blue Jackets gutted their way to a two-goal third period comeback and won in overtime 3-2.

At one point in the second period, the Canucks had a shot advantage of 17-7 over the Blue Jackets, and the visiting squad had every scoring chance squashed by the looming presence of goaltender Roberto Luongo. He finished with 30 saves on the night.

After the Blue Jackets squandered a power-play opportunity midway through the first period, the Canucks broke out of the zone late in the penalty kill. Trevor Linden spun and found Ryan Shannon fresh out of the box, who beat Pascal Leclaire between the legs to open the scoring at 12:38.

Leclaire was strong throughout the night, and has played increasingly well over the recent stretch through Canada. He made 21 saves, and held the Canucks at bay on six power play chances.

He would like another chance at Sami Salo's second period goal, though. A failed clearing attempt by Mike Peca led to Salo keeping the puck in on the right point, and fired a rocket through a relatively clear shooting lane and past Leclaire's glove, increasing Vancouver's lead to 2-0 at 10:58 of the second frame.

Obviously frustrated by the lack of result from their hard work through 40 minutes, the Blue Jackets came out in the third period determined to go to the net. Noses down, they collectively pestered Luongo and the Canuck defense in the final period, and Andrew Murray notched the first goal for the Blue Jackets after Richard Tarnstrom's shot from the point glanced off his body and bounced over Luongo.

Just over a minute later, Rick Nash feasted on Willie Mitchell's blatant turnover in the neutral zone. He broke in clean-cut on Luongo, and faked to his backhand putting it top-shelf to tie the game at 6:28 of the third period.

It's amazing what the Blue Jackets can muster out of themselves when they commit to playing their brand of hockey. For the majority of the game, they set the physical tone and gradually wore down the Canucks. Jared Boll, Dan Fritsche and recent promotion Gilbert Brule were key faces in a spirited final-stage run, supplying energy-fueling hits to get the rally going.

Nikolai Zherdev, put at center with Jason Chimera in the overtime, scooped the puck up in the neutral zone and hit the blueline with his stick zipping, and fired a cross-ice pass right on the tape of a Mach-1 Jason Chimera. He tipped the surgically precise pass behind Luongo at 1:07, sending the Blue Jackets to Edmonton with a little mojo.

The lone drawback to the overtime victory is yet another three-point game. For their troubles, the Canucks earned a point and cushioned their seventh-place standing to two points over Colorado and Nashville. The Blue Jackets sit just three points outside the eighth spot with 69 points, and equal number of games played with both eighth place teams.


NOTES: Defenseman Aaron Rome played his second NHL game, paired with Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. He didn't look out of place; calm and confident with puck, and made a couple of snap-quick breakout passes. Center Derek MacKenzie earned a few regular shifts in the third period with Fredrik Modin and Andrew Murray. Hitchcock will ride Pascal Leclaire for the foreseeable future, and D Kris Russell will likely return on Sunday.


--Rob Mixer
[email]rm234405@ohio.edu[/email]
Filed Under:   blue jackets   canucks  
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