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An "E" Ticket Ride!!! (with 19,167 riders)

Hitchcock warned us that watching this team of youngsters would be a roller coaster ride, and tonight displayed that in spades. After two periods that seemingly impossibly matched or exceeded the level of play we saw against Detroit and Boston, the CBJ let up on the gas in the 3rd, and the immensely talented Penguins made them pay.

After Antoine Vermette blistered the net early in third for a 3 -0 lead, Pittsburgh found their accelerator, aided by some untimely penalties. In three minutes of frantic hockey, played almost exclusively in the CBJ zone, Pittsburgh took advantage of defensive misplays, and all of a sudden it was a tie game. Outshot 19 – 4 in the 3rd, the ice tilted dramatically to Pittsburgh’s side. Some great saves by Mason, and some stabilizing play by our forward, got us thorugh the remainder of the third, culminated by a great feed from Nash to Peca that came within a skate blade of winning it in regulation.

The overtime was a typical one for this time of year — some bursts of aggressive play tempered by periods of caution, almost as if they each thought they might fare better in the shootout. The SO was a beauty. Williams tried a backhand through the 5 hole, but Fleury was a bit too quick. Mason stayed with Letang’s backhand move, deflecting it to the side. Nash tried a deke move that Fleury also stuffed, and Mason took Crosby’s shot squarely in the chest. As Huselius lined up the puck at center ice, Danny Gare was calling for a quick shot, and Huselius obliged. 5 hole laser — game over.

+/- for tonight: (very simple)

++ First 41:03 — For that period of time, the Bluejackets played a complete game. They hustled, they won the battles, they made some great passes, had good goaltending and took advantage of some key chances. (They were also robbed of some chances by some amazing saves on Fleury’s part). It was Hitch Hockey at it’s finest, with Williams, Vermette and Huselius leading the way, with substantial contributions from Russell, Tyutin and Umberger.

++ Last 18:57 — For whatever reason, we immediately pulled in our necks after the third goal, and Pittsburgh played with reckless abandon. We got sloppy, turned the puck over in our own zone, committed dumb penalties, and maintained no offensive pressure at all. Result: 3 goals, 19 shots to our 4.

Mason showed incredibly grit down the stretch and in the shootout. Huselius was cool as a cucumber. That is the kind of leadership that will stand us in good stead going through the final 14 games.

To review — three consecutive huge wins over Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh — 76 points with 14 games left. That means that 7 – 7 gives us 90 points, which is increasingly looking like it will be more than enough. A tough back end of a back to back tomorrow in Chicago, then home for the final showdown with Detroit on Sunday.

This is a team that everyone is beginning to talk about. NHL On The Fly tonight spoke about how Hitch wants 5th place, and that this team could make a splash in the playoffs. Nice to finally hear some positive publicity for the boys!

By the way, for those of you readers too young to understand the heading, allow me to explain. Originally, Disneyland (and later Disney World) did not have a unified price for the whole park. Up until 1982, you bought ticket books, and each of the rides or attractions took a different number and type of ticket. An “A” ticket was for the low impact, kiddie type rides and attractions you would see in Fantasyland. An “E” ticket was for the scariest, most thrilling and newest rides and attractions. Hence, anything incredibly exciting became known as an “E Ticket Ride.” That is the history lesson for today . . .

Go Jackets!!

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