Columbus should consider themselves very fortunate to leave Monday night’s home opener with even a point. If not for the stellar performance of Bobrovsky (again) the Wings might have won by three or four goals. But thanks to Bob and some timely PP goals the Jackets were in position to come away with the win and two points in the standings before poor defensive coverage, a problem all night, came back to bite them again.
Detroit came out hot Monday dominating the puck and at one point about midway through period one holding an 11 – 1 shot advantage over Columbus. Bobrovsky was up to the task and kept Detroit off the board through a scoreless first period. He would ultimately stop 13 first period shots while Columbus could muster just five of their own on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.
Columbus didn’t do themselves any favors giving the Wings three consecutive PP opportunities in the first. The Blue Jackets penalty killing, led by Bob, was successful in keeping the Wings from cashing in on any of their three chances and in fact, killed off all seven PP’s for the game.
The Wings continued their onslaught in period two and rookie defenseman Brian Lashoff got Detroit on the board with his first career NHL goal just 1:10 in.
The Jackets poor defensive coverage led to the Wings second goal 14:06 into the frame with both teams down a skater. Johan Franzen received a pass from Pavel Datsyuk down low and found Ian White creeping in from the point. He slid the puck cross-ice to White at the circle and White beat Bob, who was frantically sliding across his crease, cleanly.
On a four-on-four with plenty of open ice the forwards have to be aware where the opposing defensemen are. Allowing one to skate to the faceoff circle unobstructed and receive a pass cleanly is unacceptable. Unfortunately for Columbus this wouldn’t be the only breakdown four-on-four.
At this point it looked like despite Bob’s strong effort that a blowout was in the wind. Columbus was listless and not playing with any spark. That’s when Cam Atkinson swung into action with a little help from Ryan Johansen.
Johansen threaded a beautiful pass to Atkinson who split two Detroit defenders for a breakaway. Atkinson deked and beat Howard with a terrific goal. Atkinson and Johansen showed why Columbus fans are excited about those two young guys.
James Wisniewski evened the score early in the third on the PP blasting a point shot past Howard at the 3:24 mark.
Vinny Prospal, also on the PP, gave the Jackets the lead a little more than five minutes later. Nikita Nikitin missed high with a point shot but the puck careened into the slot where Prospal was waiting. The veteran forward rifled the puck past a flailing Howard to give Columbus their first lead.
That lead would be short-lived as a few of the Red Wings core veterans, Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, got to work. Skating four-on-four, Zetterberg fought off a defender in behind the net and passed the puck out to Kronwall at the left point. The Jackets found themselves grossly out of position and rushed back to cover the point. Kronwall was then able to find Datsyuk hanging by the right post and with Bob well out of his net to contest the anticipated shot from the left point, Datsyuk was left with an open net and he didn't miss.
This play typified the Jackets defensive play much of the game. It seemed they were running around and chasing too much and not playing positionally sound. Detroit is too good not to stay disciplined defensively and they would make the Jackets pay.
The teams would remain tied through regulation and OT. In the shootout, rookie Damien Brunner stole the show with a beautiful little change of direction from in tight. As he neared Bob almost straight on and on the forehand, he seemed to slightly glide to his left and was able to jam the puck past Bob’s right pad. My words really can’t do it justice.
Earlier in the shootout, it appeared as if Atkinson had gotten Columbus off to an early lead but after a replay it was ruled he had touched the puck twice and therefore it was no goal. It was open to interpretation; you might have said it was the continuation of the shot or you could have decided the puck left his stick and he tapped it again. It was tough to tell but I do think the officials got the call right.
It was a gutsy and resilient performance from Columbus as they battled back from a 2 - 0 deficit and put themselves in position to win. Unfortunately they couldn't close the deal. Good teams win those games so the Jackets are going to have to figure out how to leave the ice after regulation with the two points.
What’s next: The 1 – 0 – 1 Jackets travel to Phoenix to take on the 0 – 2 – 0 Coyotes tonight. Coyotes goalie Mike Smith has struggled tremendously out of the gate allowing 10 goals on 57 shots with a GAA of 5.05 through two games. He is expected to get the start tonight as reported by Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic.
Radim Vrbata is off to a solid start offensively for Phoenix with two goals and three points. Phoenix is scoring goals, seven total from six different players; their problem has been keeping the puck out of their own net. Columbus will need to play tighter defensively while cashing in on their chances tonight.
Nothing official yet from the Jackets beat writers on who will be in goal but I would guess Bob would be back. According to Shawn Mitchell the lines are as follows: 17-42-13; 22-19-71; 18-16-15; 11-10-40. The defense pairs remain the same so Johnson-Wisniewski, Tyutin-Nikitin and Moore-Aucoin.