Locked in a 2-2 game – a game that was, at one point, a two-goal lead for them – the Blue Jackets found themselves in a surprisingly nasty game with the Arizona Coyotes.
For two teams that are not and have never been division rivals, had a playoff series between them, or really anything to ignite the flame, Saturday’s game at Nationwide Arena featured a little of everything and it was (to say the least) spirited throughout.
With heavy legs and a relatively mundane second period winding down, the Coyotes tried to send a message of the physical variety, but it wound up being a much-needed wake up call for the Blue Jackets.
Not long after Boone Jenner gave the home team a 3-2 lead with their second power play goal of the night, all hell broke loose after John Scott got involved with Scott Hartnell in front of the Columbus bench.
It was nearly a line brawl with both referees struggling to get control of the situation. Coyotes captain Shane Doan was ejected, Jenner given a 10-minute misconduct and roughing penalties were assessed to both Scott and Hartnell.
On Friday night, it was an unfortunate injury to Brandon Dubinsky that galvanized the Blue Jackets in Pittsburgh. On Saturday, it was this semi-surprising donnybrook that sparked Columbus to a big third period.
The teams combined for a season-high 22 penalties and 68 penalty minutes, the majority occurring late in the second period.
“I don’t mind that,” coach John Tortorella said. “I want us to take care of one another in those situations. I want us to take care of another in their blue, and I want us to take care of one another in our blue. I think you kill those penalties off. That’s part of the game.
“That type of emotion got us charged up and got us back in involved in the game.”
The fourth line of Kerby Rychel, Gregory Campbell and Jared Boll had a large role in the game, getting in on the forecheck, finishing checks, creating havoc and, in general, doing whatever they could to make it difficult for Arizona. Boll nearly beat Smith in the second period off a great cross-ice feed, and then Rychel drove the net to try and get to the rebound.
They were right in the thick of it, battling, grinding and trying to keep the team’s energy level up.
“I am thrilled for the fourth line because I thought they had a big part in tonight’s game,” Tortorella said. “Boller gets a chance in front of the net, stuff starts happening…that’s an important part of the game as far as getting to their blue and protecting our blue.
“You could feel it on the bench – it gave us a lift.”