BLACKHAWKS 4 | BLUE JACKETS 3
Only one word comes to mind: heartbreaker.
FINAL: JACKETS 3 | BLACKHAWKS 4
The Blue Jackets were seconds away from securing a valuable point and having a chance at the second against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that had beaten them 12 straight times (0-9-3) entering the game.
For more than 59 minutes, they did a solid job against the defending Stanley Cup champions and made them earn their ice - but one bizarre sequence in the dying seconds of regulation changed everything.
It looked as if the linesman on the benches-side of the ice was calling a too many men on the ice penalty, but instead, the face-off was moved into Columbus territory. Duncan Keith got the puck quickly to the net off the draw, and then, madness ensued around Sergei Bobrovsky's cage.
A few whacks, hacks and a wild scramble resulted in Ben Smith edging the puck over the goal line at 19:56 of the third period, handing the Jackets a regulation loss that left Nationwide Arena in shock.
Columbus opened the scoring just 92 seconds into the game, as Derek MacKenzie drove the net and buried a long rebound off an RJ Umberger toss to the cage. Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta booted the puck right to MacKenzie, who made no mistake on the put-back.
The Blackhawks answered the MacKenzie goal late in the first period, and also responded to Ryan Johansen's go-ahead goal early in the second with two goals six minutes apart (Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa) to jump ahead 3-2. But the Blue Jackets needed only 15 seconds on the power play to tie it back up, and Artem Anisimov's 21st goal of the season made it 3-3 from below the goal line.
The turning point of the game came in the final seconds, and it was the ensuing face-off after the puck was ruled to make contact with something on the Jackets' bench. Rather than a neutral-zone draw, the puck was inside the Columbus zone and they could not get it clear - leading to disaster at the end.
1. BEN SMITH (CHI)
Aside from the late goal, Smith was used often by Chicago coach Joel Quenneville and he logged over three minutes of shorthanded ice time.
2. PATRICK SHARP (CHI)
Without their top two stars, the Blackhawks need Sharp and Hossa to step up and tonight, they did just that.
3. RYAN JOHANSEN (CBJ)
One of the Jackets' best weapons tonight, Johansen tallied his 31st of the season early in the second period and logged 17:25.
VS. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
SUNDAY, 6 P.M.