It’s a wonder if Columbus’ season would have a different fate if this was the Steve Mason they had all year. For the second straight game, Mason stonewalled the Hawks, this time on a night where his team was doubled up in shots and probably tripled in quality chances.
The Blue Jackets made the most of their limited opportunities and it was all they needed to salvage the last two games of the 6-game set between their Central Division rivals.
Dave Bolland was helped by Antoine Vermette in getting the Hawks on the board first. Bolland won the offensive zone face-off and went towards the front of the net. Brent Seabrook’s point shot squirted off a shinguard and right to a wide-open Bolland. He had a couple whacks at the puck but was denied by the post. Lucky for him, Vermette was more than happy to slide the puck into the net.
The Jackets answered back two minutes later with a frenzied scramble in front of the Hawks net. Brent Sopel flipped an Antii Niemi rebound into the slot and with three Jackets collapsing on the net, the loose puck found Andrew Murray who deposited it into the net.
At the end of the first, the Hawks killed off a 5-on-3 penalty. With pressure buzzing around Mason afterwards, the end of the period was the only saving grace for Columbus.
In the second, most of the play was slanted in the Jackets end. Mason was the difference, though. He turned away all of the Hawks best chances; most of which came after horrendous giveaways by his teammates.
At the thirteen minute mark, Jakub Voracek skated the puck out of his own end. All three Hawk forwards were caught down low and it was a full blown 3-on-2 from the Columbus blue line. With Brent Sopel providing the coverage on the right side, Voracek dropped the puck to R.J. Umberger as they crossed into the Hawks zone.
Meanwhile, for some reason, Duncan Keith decided to come help Sopel out. Doing this left Derek Brassard wide open bearing down on the left wing. Brassard had a ton of room in front of him and fired the puck towards the net. In a stroke of a bad decision leading to bad luck, the puck hit Brent Sopel and laid in the crease until Voracek finished off the play he started by tapping it into the empty net.
With less than thirty seconds left in the second period, the Jackets trapped the Hawks in their zone. The puck came back out to Mike Commodore and his 60-foot slap shot found a home in the back of the Hawks net. It was Commodore’s second goal in as many games.
The third period was similar to the second, except more pressure from the Hawks and less from the Jackets. The two-goal lead was cut to one at the 17 minute mark when Patrick Sharp buried a short-handed breakaway. Only Steve Mason and some bad puck luck prevented the Hawks from tying it. Dave Bolland and Andrew Ladd both had golden chances turned aside because of Mason and a racquet-ball of a puck.
A 6-on-5 for almost a whole minute was unable to generate the tying goal and Voracek finished his three-point night by scoring an empty netter.
—Maybe he was compensating for his defensive partner; maybe he thought one of the Hawks forwards was closer on the backcheck; maybe it’s his skates; or just maybe he didn’t see Brassard. Either way, Duncan Keith didn’t make a very good read that led to Columbus’ go-ahead goal. On the other hand, the Jackets made quadrupule the amount of bad defensive reads and mistakes, but still came out on the winning end.
While everyone will rush to look for blame in the normal places, I’m going to chalk this one up to bad puck luck and move along. I suggest you do the same; your dog will probably thank you.
–The defensive pairings getting jumbled up for the first time all year means either two things: Kim Johnsson is going to be out for a long time or Joel Quenneville is going back into his old back of tricks. Last year around this time, he shook up the bottom 4 defensemen when he paired up Cam Barker with Matt Walker and Brian Campbell with Ham Sandwich. The move worked wonders for the Hawks and turned their mediocre March into an undefeated April.
This time, Quenneville shook up the top 4 defensemen by partnering Sopel with Keith and Sandwich with Seabrook. Here’s hoping the defensive realignment works as well as last year.
–The team barber was pretty busy the past couple days. Joel Quenneville, Brent Sopel, Pat Foley, and Edzo were all sporting new do’s. It’s safe to assume this will be the only place that gets noticed.
*On the Farm*
—The IceHogs went 1-1 this weekend with a 4-3 win against Peoria on Friday night and a 3-0 loss to the Wolves on Saturday. The big highlight of the weekend was Shawn Lalonde scoring his first goal against Peoria. It came on the power play and put the IceHogs ahead for good. Mark Cullen returned from an injury that kept him out of the last 18 games and notched three assists. He was also named 2nd star of the game. Corey Crawford got both starts in the weekend split.
–After going up two games on the Kelowna Rockets, Byron Froese and the Silvertips have dropped three of the last four games. Froese scored a goal in Game 3 and Game 5, both losses.
—Kyle Beach scored a goal in Game 3, Game 4, and had a goal and assist in Game 5. All were losses to the Portland Winterhawks. The Chiefs now face an elimination game on Monday night.