Perception is a strange thing. If you put together an eight game winning streak, everyone is on board, figuring out where to put their replica Stanley Cups, and all is right with the world. Then, when you lose the next three, despite not playing bad hockey, the alert status goes to Defcon 2 and the next game becomes a MUST win. Now, if you approached virtually any fan and said that the Blue Jackets had gone 8-3 in their last eleven games, would they be pleased? Of course they would. Ultimately, the sequencing is of little consequence, so long as the final numbers lead to a positive balance on the ledger. So, keeping the perception thing in mind, what if I told you that the Blue Jackets went 0-for-7 on the power play and surrendered seven extra man situations to the Washington Capitals? You'd probably wince and speculate that Columbus lost by three or four goals. On this night, you would be wrong, as the Blue Jackets scored often, walked a bit of a tightrope, and ultimately prevailed 5-2. In the process, they held that Ovechkin guy to a minus-5 for the game. That's right -- MINUS 5. Now, I'm not a big fan of the +/- statistic, but this one sticks out like a sore thumb. However, I digress. On to the action. Keys? What Keys? Before this one started, I opined that the Blue Jackets had to do three things to emerge victorious from this one: 1) keep the legs moving; 2) say out of the box, and avoid bad offensive zone penalties and 3) hit the net with the shots. For the first half of period one, they skated just fine, but made a habit of missing the net, and took a bad offensive zone penalty when Boone Jenner plowed down Washington net minder Braden Holtby. However, thanks largely to some suspect play by the Capitals, the Blue Jackets did not pay dearly for their miscues. The Blue Jackets took two minor penalties in the period, and Nick Foligno incurred an additional 17 minutes himself with a fighting major, an instigating minor and a 10 minute misconduct for his brawl with Washington thug Tom Wilson, who was spoiling for a fight all night long. The precise basis for the misconduct was unclear, but it may have been due to the rather obvious retaliatory intent, as Foligno was seeking to vindicate Nikita Nikitin, who took a cheap shot at Wilson's hand earlier in the frame. With the fireworks over, the Blue Jackets got down to business. While in the process of killing the Foligno instigation penalty, R.J. Umberger met the Caps at the blue line, and disrupted the possession. MacKenzie took the puck at the blue line on the left and steamed toward Holtby. As he approached, he parlayed his blade open and shut, then made a quick shift to the left side, and parked the puck into a gaping net. A shorthanded goal was just the ticket for the 16,047 in attendance, who were loud and energetic all night long. Columbus extended the lead to 2-0 just five minutes later, with Ryan Johansen in complete control. He gained control of the puck to the left of the offensive zone, skated it to the point, and fed Jack Johnson, who put a hard shot solidly on net. In the meantime, Johansen had navigated his way to an open spot to Holtby's right, and deposited the deflected puck squarely in the back of the net. Johansen was playing with two new line mates -- Jenner and Horton -- and the change seemed to suit him just fine, thanks. So, at the first intermission, the Blue Jackets had out-shot the Capitals 7 - 5, and enjoyed a two goal lead. The most dangerous lead in hockey.
Blue Jackets Burn Capitals 5- 2
The Cannon | Jan 31