Andy Gottesman / Multimedia Editor
Fueled by a sellout crowd and need for a victory, the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 3-2, Friday at Nationwide Arena.
Following three periods of aggressive hockey, the Jackets and Red Wings were forced into overtime and a game-deciding shootout.
After both teams’ first three shooters failed to break the stalemate, Antoine Vermette took the ice. Moving side to side, Vermette slipped the puck past goalie Joey MacDonald to break the gridlock.
When Red Wings center Johan Franzen failed to score on the returning shot, the entire Jackets team took the ice to celebrate its 3-2 victory.
Vermette watched as Rick Nash, Kyle Wilson and Kristian Huselius failed to make their shots, and knew he needed to try something new.
“I tried a different approach, maybe try to go side to side, try to deke him, and that’s what I did,” Vermette said. “I’m glad it worked out.”
Jakub Voracek and Grant Clitsome scored for the Jackets against goalie Jimmy Howard, who left the game with 7:07 left in the first period.
After taking over in goal, MacDonald held the Jackets scoreless for the remainder of regulation.
“I thought Joey did a good job. Obviously we were down; he did a good job,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
In the second period, Drew Miller scored the Red Wings’ first goal of the night, sparking life into the team. Less than three minutes later, Jiri Hudler tied the game at two.
The goals marked the second consecutive game in which the Jackets lost a two-point lead. In their previous game against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Jackets twice had two-point leads only to lose the game, 4-3.
“Going into the third period, I knew I had to shut the door,” goalie Steve Mason said after the game. “Obviously, to give up two in the second period was tough for the team considering the first period we had. I think the guys were pretty disappointed in the way we came out in the second.”
In the third, the Jackets regained their aggressive play and sent the game into overtime.
“Coming into the third period the guys got back to playing like we did in the first, and we put the pressure on them and got the win in the shootout,” Mason said.
The Jackets failed to capitalize on a power play that carried over from the third period, however, allowing for the game to go into a shootout.
“It very easily could have gone the other way, but we kept hanging in there and we persevered at the end,” Jackets coach Scott Arniel said.
The win halted a five-game losing streak for the Jackets.
“We wanted to stop the bleeding. We had lost a number of games and had to find a way to get back into the win column,” Arniel said.
The victory was crucial for the Jackets as they look to stay in the playoff hunt. With the win, they gained two points in the Western Conference, putting them two points behind the San Jose Sharks.
“That was big, finding a way to get that extra point and we certainly needed it more than they do,” Arniel said.
More important than points, the team gained confidence and momentum it desperately needed.
“It’s a huge win. Obviously, when you look at the standings are very important, but as far as our team trying to gain confidence and gain some momentum, this is exactly the game you want to play,” Vermette said.
The Jackets will look to capitalize on the victory as they head north to face off once again with the Red Wings on Saturday.
“I’d really be more impressed if we could get both games out and get four points out of it,” Arniel said. “We’ll enjoy (the win) for a few minutes and be better tomorrow.”
For the players, the quick turnaround will be welcomed.
“When you have a tough time like this, a couple games when you didn’t get the win, you get a good game and finally get those two points, you want to be back as soon as possible,” Vermette said.