The Columbus Blue Jackets’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks looked less like a shootout and more like Mike Tyson’s Punchout.
Given the level of the game’s enmity and intensity, it would not have been surprising to see Columbus and Chicago’s radio play-by-play teams squaring off in the hallway behind the press box or the organ operator making threatening gestures towards the Blackhawks’ bench.
“We played against one of the best teams in the conference and came back from a 4-3 deficit,” Columbus captain Rick Nash said after the game. “We would have liked to have done better, but we got a point and now we move into the Olympic break.”
As play began, Columbus seemed to have difficulty keeping the puck out of their zone. Jackets’ goalie Mathieu Garon was tested early and often as Chicago put multiple shots on goal in the opening minutes.
Despite their early troubles, the Blue Jackets were able to strike first. Left wing Kristian Huselius took a tape-to-tape pass from center Antoine Vermette and put the puck past Blackhawks’ goalie Antti Niemi at the 11:11 mark of the first period.
With the score, Columbus set a franchise record by netting the first goal of the game in seven straight contests.
Columbus continued to apply the pressure on Niemi with another score moments later. Derick Brassard fought his way to the puck after having been crushed into the boards by a Chicago defenseman. From his knees, he fired a pass to line mate Jakub Voracek. Voracek passed to Raffi Torres, who put a shot on goal that Niemi was able to deflect. Torres then collected his own rebound and beat Niemi with his second effort.
It was the kind of greasy goal that Torres is known for. Torres, whose name has been the topic of trade talks of late, is exactly the kind of grinder Columbus needs to hold onto to teach its younger players the intangibles of the game.
Chicago was able to narrow the gap in the waning seconds of the period as their leading scorer, Patrick Kane, was able to beat Garon high to his stick-side just inside the post for a power play goal to bring the score to 2-1 with just six seconds remaining.
Columbus had that first period lead in spite of the fact that the shots deficit stood at 19 to five in favor of Chicago.
The Blackhawks got the equalizer from an unlikely source at the 3:07 mark of the second stanza. Little-used forward Bryan Bickell took a pass from teammate Jake Dowell and beat Garon glove side. It was Bickell’s second goal of the season.
Dowell, who had just been called up from the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s American Hockey League affiliate, would assert himself again to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.
He scored his first goal of the season when he collected a rebound and flipped a shot towards the net that Garon couldn’t handle as it came in at an awkward angle. Dowell’s only previous contribution to the stat sheet before the game was a fighting major.
Chicago didn’t wait long to strike again. Blackhawks’ forward Patrick Sharp converted off a pretty pass from his captain and Blue Jackets-killer Jonathan Toews to extend their lead to 4-2.
But Columbus has a talented captain of its own.
Nash brought the Jackets to within one with a power play goal following a holding the stick penalty on Chicago’s Kim Johnsson.
Oddly enough for a game that had already seen seven goals scored between the two teams, the third period was when things started to really get interesting.
The sequence began with Jackets’ defenseman Anton Stralman putting a shoulder into Kane and leveling him. Something seemed to snap inside the Blackhawks’ Troy Brouwer when he saw his teammate Kane crumbling to the ice in obvious agony.
While the fans’ attention was focused on the puck traveling the other way, Brouwer began to rain punches down on Stralman. Stralman attempted to hang in but quickly succumbed to Brouwer’s furious assault.
Brouwer was assessed 19 total penalty minutes, broken up between instigating, fighting and a game misconduct penalty.
“On a hit like that, I felt it was dirty,” Brouwer said of the fight. “It’s always tough to see a teammate go down so I had to step in.”
Columbus took advantage of the extended power play when Fedor Tyutin scored his fourth goal of the season to tie the score.
After two more fights and a roughing penalty on Torres, Columbus’ penalty kill unit staved off a Blackhawks’ barrage to send the game to overtime.
Columbus began the extra period with a three men to four disadvantage due to the remainder of Torres’ penalty. The Jackets fought through that and forced the shootout.
Brouwer was to have his final revenge, however, when he scored the shootout winner, sending the Jackets home losers as they begin a two-week break.