Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. . . After all, it has been almost three weeks since a Bluejacket had a home hat trick! (And boy is it fun to write that line!!!)
So, with apologies to Walt Whitman for hijacking his title to describe tonight's game, nothing else describes it. Nash took the team on his shoulders, played every role he needed to play -- scorer, defender, passer, penalty killer, leader, and led the CBJ to a hard-earned 3-2 overtime victory over Detroit, in front of what I would guess was 14,000 or so intrepid souls who braved the Central Ohio version of awful conditions to loudly cheer on their team. Although Hitch scoffs at this weather, no mistaking the awful state of the roads.
Tonight was a return to Hitch-Hockey. 3 - 2 final score, 23 shots apiece, including OT. We had three power plays, Detroit 2, so most of the play was at even strength. Good to see after the wild and wooly swing through NW Canada.
The Jackets could easily have been ahead 3 - 0 with about 5 minutes gone in the game. A tape to tape pass in the slot ricocheted off Osgood. Another great shot hit the post. Another nice save by Osgood. In the meantime, on Detroit's first power play, a freakish bounce off the boards comes right to a streaking Hossa for a tap-in. However, on the next Detroit power play, Nash does his thing, captures the puck , leaves the defense in the rear view mirror (as George Matthews said on the air), and cashes in the shorthanded opportunity. After Lebda scores on a seeing eye puck that found the inside left corner after bouncing around for awhile, Nash caps off a nice power play with a nasty zipper from a low angle that deflects over Osgood's shoulder. We survive a 3rd period where we were more spectators than participants, and proceed to dominate the OT, culminating with Nash emulating Detroit by parking on the weak side and parking the rebound. A natural hat trick with a shortie, a pp goal and an even strength goal.
Here are the +/- for the game:
+ Fans -- When we completed our 1 hour drive from Gahanna and walked in, I thought "uh oh" -- looked like more red jerseys than anything else. But in typical Columbus fashion, it was a late arriving crowd that was apprehensively quiet early, but exploded after the first goal and never looked back. Nash made a point of acknowledging the crowd in his post-game interview, and there is no denying that the mood is returning to that of the first few years. Well done!!
+ Nash -- Duhhhh, but it is more than the hat trick. It is the PK, sprinting back after turning over the puck late to deny a breakaway opportunity, being hugely strong on the puck all night long. Awesome.
+ Defense -- The support and attention to detail returned. We kept Detroit at the perimeter quite a bit, and though there were plenty of anxious moments in our zone, we kept our cool. Great discipline in not taking penalties.
+ Special Teams -- 1 for 3 on the power play may not seem like a lot, but we really moved the puck well and had some great chances, besides Nash's goal. Our PK was strong leading up to the Nash shortie, and tough to fault them for the Happy Birthday bounce off the boards directly to Hossa's stick.
+ Goaltending -- Mason returned to looking comfortable, and made some nice saves in clutch situations, particularly in the 3rd, when we were outshot 9 - 2. One anxious moment when he had brain freeze while handling the puck in the trapezoid, which almost cost us a late goal. The hockey gods were with us on that one. Obviously Stevie was more refreshed and had his focus back.
+ Players -- Huselius was great all night, and Commodore was huge at both ends. Boll hustled all night and is showing some real improvement on the skill side. Dorsett battled hard, as did Murray. Voracek just keeps looking bigger and stronger.
- Experiment -- Sorry Hitch, I know you said after the game that you liked Chimera at center tonight, I am not buying it. He looks as comfortable in the faceoff circle as a teenage boy holding his girlfriend's purse. Why, in God's name, is Chimera taking the faceoff when you have Peca and Umberger on the ice at the same time??? 10 points for creativity, but let's allow the poor boy to return to the wing and do what he does best. He was actually hitting the target this year before the injury -- let's let him get that confidence back!
- Officiating -- Lots of non calls, and some really, really bad line calls. Offsides seems really simple to me, but boy did the linesmen struggle with the concept tonight.
In sum, a great win to start off the run toward the playoffs. Sure, Detroit was missing Datsuyk and Lidstrom, but don't cry to me about injuries. We did what we had to do to get the 2 points, and were able to give Modin a night off to boot. We returned to Hitch-Hockey, and did what we do really well right now -- stay in the game until the opportunity arises. Great job boys!!!