Just as everyone predicted at the beginning of the season, the most anticipated game to close out the calendar year is … the Minnesota Wild versus the Columbus Blue Jackets?
(Sorry Pittsburgh and Montreal.)
The hockey world was gifted with The Unsustainabowl. A confluence of two teams riding franchise high win streaks; Minnesota with 12 wins in a row and Columbus with 14.
Two teams would enter and only one team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, would leave as victors; extending their franchise high win streak to 15 games. The streak
The game started as a battle of the goaltenders. Sergei Bobrovsky earned the first quality save of the game as he robs Zach Parise.
Minutes later, Columbus strikes first for the 24th time in 35 games this season.
Brandon Dubinsky creates a turnover in the neutral zone and gets the puck to Cam Atkinson behind the Wild. In alone on a breakaway, Atkinson beats Devan Dubnyk for his team leading 36 point.
Tensions were high in the game from the very beginning. Little scrums and after the whistle shenanigans were breaking out all over the ice.
Matt Calvert and Jason Zucker were both sent off for roughing leaving the teams to play 4-on-4.
Less than a minute in to the matching minors, Bobrovsky has massive brain fart and fires the puck straight over the glass. The delay of game penalty gives Minnesota a 4-on-3 advantage to close out the period.
Charlie Coyle nearly converts on a wrap-around attempt, but he’s foiled by Bobrovsky.
The Jackets and Wild end the first period with Columbus leading 1-0.
After killing off the remaining part of the Minnesota power play to start the second, Bobrovsky comes up huge for the Jackets again. Chris Stewart appeared to have a goal on his stick as he flicked the puck up high. Bobrovsky is turned completely the wrong way in his crease and somehow makes the save.
Then things start to get nasty.
It begins with Stewart rocking Seth Jones on a clean hit against the glass. Stewart proceeds to drop the gloves with Josh Anderson, who he’d been jawing with since an earlier faceoff.
When that tilt was over, Matt Dumba and Matt Calvert suddenly start fighting.
That is a huuuuuge no-no according to the NHL Rule 46.7. Starting a second fight after a stoppage results in an automatic ejection from the game for both players involved.
The Jackets losing Calvert is going to have some impact. Yet the Wild losing Dumba cuts their defense down to a rotation of five players. It was a better tradeoff for Columbus. After the game, Bruce Boudreau said Dumba was unaware of the rule.
“I thought our bench was 10 feet tall after [the fights],” Tortorella said, and it showed. Less than a minute after all that went down, the Jackets go up 2-0.
Jack Johnson joins the rush with Brandon Saad. Saad passes the puck clear across the ice to Johnson who swipes it into the net.
Fifteen seconds after the Johnson goal, Atkinson nets his second goal of the game on a deflection to put the Jackets up 3-0. Dubnyk angrily fires the puck down the ice.
The Wild call a timeout to calm everyone down. It appeared to work.
Ryan Murray is sent off the ice for cross-checking sending the Wild to the power play. It takes Minnesota 47-seconds to get on the board. Mikael Granlund scores a power play goal to put the Wild within two.
Columbus held Minnesota back until Seth Jones scored late in the second to put the Jackets back up by three.
‘Lumbus out works Minnesota for the puck behind the net. Saad gets the puck behind the net and sends a laser of a pass to Jones pinching in. Jones one-times it behind Dubnyk.
The period ended with CBJ up 4-1.
The Minnesota coaches emerged from the locker room to get ready for puck drop in the third, but the team didn’t follow close behind. Perhaps the players had a moment to themselves to get their house in order before taking the ice.
Again, the mental gymnastics seemed to work for the Wild. A mere 24-seconds in to the third, Jason Zucker gets in behind the flat-footed Blue Jackets defense for a breakaway goal.
With the score favoring Columbus at 4-2, the Blue Jackets shrank back from the aggressive team they’d been in the first two periods. Minnesota put up 15 shots on the Jackets as they held on to their lead.
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella didn’t see his team’s performance in the third as a negative.
“I don’t think there was any panic in the third period,” Tortorella said. “This is game 35 for us; to play in that atmosphere…there was no panic on the bench, and that’s something we can hopefully go back to. A lot of good things come out of the whole situation, and we get a win.”
The Wild pulled Dubnyk with 2:09 to go and the team on a power play.
Alas, it was all for naught. Columbus wins 4-2. The Blue Jackets are a perfect 14-0 in the month of December.
Their 15 game run places them in a tie for second longest streak in NHL history. Bobrovsky earned his 13th straight win in net for ‘Lumbus. Columbus will face the Edmonton Oilers on January 3 to try to extend the streak to 16 games.
Bruce Boudreau was deferential to the team that ended the Wild streak.
“They were still coming [in the third], and that’s why their record is five losses in 35 games,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “John [Tortorella] has got them playing real well.”
“I’m happy for the guys,” said Tortorella. “I’m proud of the way they’ve handled themselves through all of this. It’s two good teams. I liked the way we handled ourselves in our preparation, how we handled ourselves with media, and we played a good game.”