And the Streak is Over!
The Blue Jackets franchise worst nine-game losing streak has finally come to an end! Steve Mason and the Union Blue shutout the Detriot Red Wings tonight, but needed extra time to get one on the board themselves. Fredrik Modin scored the game-winner with 1:48 left in overtime to give the Jackets just their second win in the month of December.
It was a huge win for the Blue Jackets on a day where the game was almost an afterthought when it came to CBJ news. Earlier today, General Manager Scott Howson announced that the team had dealt fan-favorite Jason Chimera to the Washington Capitals for defenseman Milan Jurcina and right wing Chris Clark. In a post-game interview Mason said the move itself wasn’t what sparked the Jackets to victory, but it’s hard to believe that losing a guy who’s been in the locker room longer than the vast majority of the team doesn’t have an effect. Regardless, the Jackets came away with the all-important win and for third consecutive game, looked more and more like the team from last year.
Tonight’s game was a classic goaltenders duel. Mason had more high-quality saves than his Detriot counterpart Jimmy Howard, but the Team USA hopeful turned away 39 shots and could have done little more to deny Modin in overtime. Mason, who played well in the 3-1 loss to Dallas, turned away 34 shots while being hounded by the likes of Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi all night long. He looked like the Steve Mason of 2008-2009 making huge save after huge save and was superb with his rebound control. When he was out of position, his defense was their to bail him out in probably the best team defensive game the Union Blueline has played all season.
The Blue Jackets penalty kill was 4-4 on the evening, including an enoromous 5-on-3 kill midway through the second period with both Modin and Jan Hejda in the penalty box. Mason stood tall during the kill and the defense was active and able to apply pressure in the defensive and neutral zone, something they were doing very well early in the season when the team owned the top PK in the league.
Play was back-and-fourth in overtime when Anton Stralman gathered the puck up in the right corner of the Jackets defensive end. He out-maneuvered Drew Miller with the puck and then dropped it for Sammy Pahlsson who sent it across ice to Fedor Tyutin. Tyutin hit Modin just inside the Columbus blue line where he caught Brad Stuart flat-footed. Modin then drove to the net and and got a shot off on a 1-0n-2, followed up the generous rebound from Howard, and patiently waited for the opening to backhand it into the empty net. He looked like pre-lockout Modin and reminded Red Wings, and Columbus for that matter, of what he is still capable of. Maybe it was that spark from being named to the Swedish Olympic squad? Regardless, if he can continue to improve as he gets closer and closer to 100 percent, it could be a massive boost for a Jackets team that has been held to two goals or less in seven games.
The Blue Jackets had little time to celebrate the with a plane to New York they needed to catch. The Jackets will take on John Tavares and the New York Islanders tomorrow night in Nassau Coliseum. Coach Ken Hitchcock did not announce the starter for tomorrow evening, but if he stays true to his “win and you’re in” philosophy, Mason should get the start in back-to-back games, without a day’s rest. Hitchcock did announce that both Clark and Jurcina will make their Blue Jackets debuts tomorrow night in Long Island.
With tonight’s shutout, Steve Mason has tied Marc Denis for the club record with 12. Denis did it in five seasons with the Union Blue. Mase needed a little over a year and a half.
Jackets captain Rick Nash did not record a shot on goal until the overtime period. He was matched up against Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom “95 percent of the time” the past two games according to Hitchcock. Nash should have more free reign tomorrow night against a lesser Islanders defense.
Hitchcock has been switching the defensive grouping around a lot during this losing streak but one pair that he always seems to go back to is Anton Stralman and Fedor Tyutin. It paid off tonight as they were both on the ice for the game-winner and have played very well since Stralman returned from the flu.
Tonight game was the first time in franchise history that the Jackets headed into overtime scoreless and came away with the W.