Bluejackets fans are in a unique position to empathize with the Florida Panthers fans tonight. Over the past 7 years, how many times have we nursed a 1 goal lead with less than 5 minutes left in the game, and had our hopes shattered by a bad bounce, a late penalty or defensive breakdown?
With 2:46 left in the game, Vokoun looked unbeatable. While we did not have all of the energy or sharpness we had displayed in other games of late, we were by no means playing badly, and we had steadily increased our hold on the contest. However, whatever we threw at Vokoun got stopped. It was an unpleasant bit of deja vu, back to his Nashville days.
Then, suddenly, it all changed. A gorgeous feed from Huselius found Torres, who cruised across the center and went high on Vokoun, who couldn't handle it. 1 - 1, and the 17,032 in attendance got suddenly very quiet.
In my 2nd Period summary below, I surmised that one goal would open the floodgates. Well, 2:46 doesn't provide a lot of time for a flood, but it sure is enough time for the water to start rising! Just 1:13 later, Torres received another feed from Peca (who was huge in the 3rd), and lasered one low inside the left post. 2 -1 Jackets, with 1:33 left, and the crowd was stunned.
The following sequence was a microcosm of what the CBJ have shown time and time again this year, but lacked in prior years -- the refusal to quit and the talent to follow through. With Vokoun pulled, the Jackets did not go into scramble mode. Instead, they played sound positional hockey, finished their checks, watched their lanes, and made the extra effort to keep the puck out. Having lost his stick, Peca threw himself to the ice -- not once, but twice, in short succession, to disrupt the point play. His effort led to a turnover onto the stick of Vermette, who finished off an empty netter under pressure from his side of center ice. Party on . . .
Here are +/- for tonight:
Competetive Composure -- With tons of shots on goal (final tally was 37 - 23), and some truly sick saves by Vokoun, it would have been easy for the Jackets to either get down on themselves or go away from their game in an effort to make something happen. That is usually when we give up an odd man rush or take an untimely penalty. Not tonight -- we kept hammering until we put a crack in the dam, and kept hammering after that until the water was flowing steadily. Good stuff! (Thought I'd keep the water metaphor going . . . )
Penalty Kill -- Once again, the PK was perfect. We denied them opportunites, were agressive on the perimeter, and cut off the passing lanes. Everything you need in a tight game.
Escalating Pressure -- Without a spectacular amount of "jump", we nonetheless continued to turn up the pressure as the game went on. The ice tilted sharply from the end of the first through the end of the game. The Panther offense was a non-factor in the 3rd.
Individual Efforts -- Torres was enormous at the precise moment we needed him, which is what Hitchcock and Howson both said when we acquired him. However, we had a lot of other efforts that enabled us to be in the position to win. Mason was tremendously solid. As noted above, Peca was huge (8 - 3 in the faceoff circle). Boll was as strong in the offensive end as I have ever seen him. 16 of our shots came from defensemen, which is exactly what you want to see when the opponent is playing the collapsing kind of defense Florida was.
Defensive Pursuit -- We were not strong on the puck in our own zone throughout the game, and lost too many battles, either along the boards or in open ice. Commodore, Hejda and Klesla were outgunned too many times.Officiating -- I again find it hard to believe that Florida committed only 1 penalty in 60 minutes of hockey. The call on Boll was ludicrous -- for the second game in a row. I fear that young Mr. Boll is getting a bit of a reputation around the league, and this makes it tough for him to get any calls.
The Bluejackets ripped the hearts out of the teams pursuing us, who were undoubtedly watching the scoreboards, praising Vokoun, and doing some math based upon us having only 80 points with 10 to play. Sorry to disappoint you boys. A 3 point lead over 7th place Edmonton, 5 over 8th place Nashville, and 7 over 9th place St. Louis.
As I wrap this up, Phoenix is ahead of Vancouver, 4 - 0 after 2, and Dallas lost to San Jose. If 88 points is the number for 8th place, as I believe it to be, Dallas needs to go 7 - 3 over the last 10 to reach that level. Fat lady is warming up in the wings for them, especially since Brad Richards apparently fractured his other hand tonight, in his first night back. That is sad to see.
Jackets are now 13 - 3 -1 against the East, and Mason is 12 - 1, with a GAA of 1.00. Unreal . . .
Great to be a member of the Army of the Ohio -- Go Jackets!!!