First of all, a note: before this game began, the fans at Staples observed a moment of silence for the victims of violence in Boston and of the freak explosion in West Texas. The more recent developments in Boston escalated during the game; the shooting at MIT occurred right around puck drop, and the Watertown lockdown and manhunt apparently began in the third period. It was sobering to leave the arena after a win and discover for the first time what had been going on all night. Again, to anyone who is on the East Coast and especially in the Massachusetts area, please be safe.
Last night's game was a crucial one for both teams. The Los Angeles Kings needed a win to hold on to fourth place, as the Sharks were busy dominating the Wild. Meanwhile, the hockey world has slowly fallen for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they were looking for an improbable fifth win in seven games to remain in control of their own destiny in the Western Conference playoff race. The Kings have a great social media relationship with the Jackets, but on the ice they were unsympathetic, winning a chippy game 2-1. Let's break it down... with hashtags!
The first period zipped by, which was unfortunate for the poor guy who was attempting to eat a five-foot-long sub by game's end to win a free Jersey Mike's sandwich for all in attendance. (He succeeded!) The first 7:03 didn't see a single stoppage in play or a single great scoring chance, but things finally escalated thanks to 4-on-4 action. Justin Williams and and the Jackets' James Wisniewski took coincidental roughing minors in a scrum, and young defenseman Dalton Prout hooked Jeff Carter alongside the net 22 seconds later. The Kings immediately capitalized by getting the puck to the front and making Bobrovsky work, and Drew Doughty put the Kings ahead when his rebound shot deflected in off Fedor Tyutin's leg (hashtags: #LumbusLeg or #BootinTyutin). Jeff Carter was in the area and was thisclose to batting the puck in himself, but Drew took credit for his fifth goal in seven games, and his third on the power play. Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar picked up assists.
Columbus had just four shots in the first, and midway through the second they were still being doubled up on the shotsheet. However, Sergei Bobrovsky (in the midst of a Vezina-caliber year) kept the Jackets in it in the second, capping off a run of good saves with a nice glove stop on a crestfallen Dustin Brown (hashtags: #SadBrownie or #Gloverobsky). Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets finally forced some saves out of Quick, with the first great Columbus chance by Brandon Dubinsky being denied by Quick's pad. 12:07 in to the second, the Jackets tied it up with their fourth line providing the boost. Blake Comeau and Fedor Tyutin got the puck to young Dalton Prout, who took a long shot through traffic and beat Quick for his first NHL goal (hashtag: #HowAboutProut).
Fortunately, the Kings responded well and grabbed the lead right back a minute and a half later, with their own fourth line doing the dirty work. Jordan Nolan entered the zone with speed and tripped over a prone Columbus player, but the Jackets could not clear and Brad Richardson got the puck behind the net. He set up Nolan for a point-blank shot which was stopped by Bobrovsky, but Kyle Clifford swept through and fired the rebound home in traffic (hashtags: #CleanUpCliff or #ScaryFace). The 2-1 lead forced some more shooting from the Jackets, with Quick's flexible shoulder preserving the lead into the second intermission.
Los Angeles kept things under control in the final frame, but they only mustered three shots; the team needed Jonathan Quick to be sharp to hold off a desperate surge by the Jackets, and was he ever. Matt Greene wasn't bad last night, but he showed his rust throughout with some sloppy turnovers and, as Rudy Kelly and others anticipated, he took a penalty in his first game back. His trip on Vinny Prospal gave Columbus a big power play in the middle of the third, but Quick was game, and the penalty kill continued their strong run. After that point the Jackets had a few more opportunities, with Quick making a fine stop with the arm on Nick Foligno (hashtag: #ThatGuyWonAConnSmythe), and the final empty-net surge was fruitless. The scrums had been frequent tonight and they boiled over at game's end; with Mike Richards on the bench, his nemesis Brandon Dubinsky found another target in Drew Doughty, and Dubinsky was given a match penalty (later rescinded) by shoving Doughty's face into the ice while he was down. After two minutes of tension, Columbus finally cleared the ice so the Kings could congratulate Quick.
It's a big hit to #Lumbus playoff hopes, but if you will, be sure to root for them on Sunday when they take on San Jose. Meanwhile, we're going up against another team going for 8th place, and one that we haven't done well against this year: the Dallas Stars. A win for us and a loss for the Sharks will put us in the driver's seat for home ice in the first round. Encouraging notes: Quick has now stopped 98 of 104 shots in the past four starts, and Greene is back early enough to get himself into playoff mode.