Every coach uses their favorite phrase: "We need to compete for sixty minutes." It is so often overused that it becomes overlooked. You hear the coachspeak and instinctively turn the other cheek. I'm guilty of it, thank god for a digital recorder.
The Blue Jackets celebrated their long-awaited return to Dallas (turns on sarcasm detector) on Tuesday night, looking for answers after a disappointing 3-1 loss Saturday afternoon. The coaches and players will tell you that they carried the majority of play, and for the most part, they are correct.
Perhaps the main problem with teams (namely Columbus) is that too much is read into specific segments of the game. So often we hear "we had them on their heels in the first", "we just broke down in the third", etc. Yes, this may have happened. No, that is not the only period in a hockey game. Apologies for the obvious factor.
The Blue Jackets may have outshot the Stars 14-5 in the first period last night, but many shots were of low quality and from the wing. Lesson learned Saturday- weak shots will not get past Mike Smith, who has a Vezina-esque performance each time he faces the Jackets. No coincidence, either.
Dallas got two quick goals before the midpoint of the game, and it was clear that the Blue Jackets sat back on their heels for the next six minutes. Young teams sometimes lose focus when things happen too quickly, as was the case last night.
To their credit, they rebounded and got on the board late in the second. Rookie Kris Russell potted his first career goal, and all of a sudden, the Jackets regained some lost energy. However, it would require quite the third period to make up for forty minutes of wasted opportunities and numerous power plays.
Hence the title of the blog. For final twenty, the Blue Jackets mustered up a surprising amount of gusto, pushing the Stars back into their own end for extended spurts. Pascal Leclaire got his name in the paper with a couple momentum-stopping saves, and after Andrew Murray tied the game at 8:03 of the third, it was a new game.
Lightning doesn't strike twice, at least not in the Southwest I've been told. However, the hockey gods smiled on little Kris Russell tonight. Nikolai Zherdev's second beautiful assist of the night caught Russell pinching in the back door for his second goal of the game. It proved to be the winner. What a night for the kid.
If you put all of your eggs in one basket (that basket being the third period), sometimes the outcome works your way. Luckily for the Jackets, it was they who garnered the energy late in a road trip to pull it off.
They have the day off today, and faceoff with the Blackhawks in Chicago tomorrow night. Ken Hitchcock plans to ride Pascal Leclaire into the break and likely after, as he has picked up his game of late.
Forward Dan Fritsche sustained a back injury in the second period against Dallas and didn't return. His status for tomorrow is doubtful, and Curtis Glencross is likely to take his place. Sergei Fedorov was placed on the IR yesterday, and will resume skating after the break.