Mar 25, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson (13) scores a goal as he crashes into the goal from a Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith (2) check during the third period at Nationwide Arena. Columbus beat Detroit 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Red Wings Battle Hard But Fall To Fellow Wild Card Contender Columbus

With 2 huge points on the line it was no surprise that tonight’s game versus the Columbus Blue Jackets would get off to a quick and exciting start. Unfortunately for Detroit fans the hockey gods seemed to favor the home team early on in this contest. Todd Bertuzzi was welcomed back to the lineup tonight by getting called for an inadvertent high-sticking call less than a minute into the game which led to Columbus snapping their 0-36 streak on the power-play and tallying the game’s first goal shortly afterwards. The Blue Jackets kept Detroit from playing their much-loved puck-possession game for much of the first period by getting the early jump on the Red Wings.

Darren Helm drew a hooking penalty and gave the Red Wings their first power play opportunity after driving hard to the net but the Wings were never really able to capitalize on their first man-advantage chance. Just as Detroit was able to start getting some scoring chances and recapturing their puck-possession style of play Brendan Smith drew an interference penalty behind the play. Luckily Smith’s penalty was quickly canceled out by a Nathan Horton holding penalty less than 10 seconds later. The 4 on 4 play would also be short-lived as less than 30 seconds into it Darren Helm was called for hooking. Once again Columbus was able to capitalize on their power play chance with Brandon Dubinsky putting a wrist-shot behind Jimmy Howard off of Danny DeKeyser‘s stick  just seconds before the 4 on 3 play ended.

Not to be outdone Gustav Nyquist was able to cut the lead in half by sneaking a puck behind an unsuspecting Sergei Bobrovksi with just around 5 mintues left in the first-period. By the end of the first twenty minutes of play the Red Wings had seemed to finally find their legs and were seemingly beginning to warm up to the task at hand.

Apparently sometime during the first intermission Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovski decided that he would not be able to continue tonight’s game due to the flu. Curtis McElhinney was brought in for the first time since March 18th to finish the game for the Blue Jackets. The second-period started similarly to the first with Columbus setting the pace with efficient and physical play. Johan Franzen took a hard a hit trying to drive towards the net and seemed to be shaken up briefly but luckily he didn’t miss any shifts. The only scoring during the second-period came off a 2 on 1 breakaway by Tatar and Nyquist with Nyquist continuing to streak and netting his second goal of the evening.

In what seemed to be the reoccurring theme of the evening, the final 20 minutes of play opened up with the Blue Jackets setting the pace by controlling the puck and winning most of the physical 1 on 1 battles against Detroit. The Red Wings also continued their streak of struggling in the final period by allowing Columbus to score what would be the game-winning-goal on a backhand shot by Cam Atkinson around the 7 minute mark. For a brief moment though there seemed to be hope for Red Wings fans that the goal would be called back as Atkinson had knocked the goal frame off its moorings before the puck crossed the line but upon further video review it was clear to see that this was all made possible by a “friendly” shove by Brendan Smith.

Detroit had a chance to tie the game at 3 roughly a minute and a half later after Nick Foligno was called for Slashing but the Wings were unable to gain the zone and create any power play chances. David Legwand stopped a Mark Letestu breakaway by taking a Slashing penalty and ended Detroit’s final power-play opportunity of the game. The Wings continued to battle and earn some quality scoring chances off of some late rushes but they never found the back of the net for the remainder of regulation. Ryan Johansen‘s empty net goal with less than 6 seconds left sealed the game for Columbus and allowed the Blue Jackets to slide back into a wild card spot.

Ultimately Detroit battled hard and never gave up but they just couldn’t match the physicality and level of desperation that Columbus brought to tonight’s game and once again not being able to capitalize on power play opportunities hurt the Red Wings. The Blue Jackets are no longer the easy win or pushover they once were and tonight they were the hungrier team with the home ice advantage.

So what’s done is done. Keep your chins held high Hockeytown and remember the inspirational words of Bluto Blutarsky…

“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell No! And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough . . . the tough get goin’!”

Don’t Stop Believing.

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