BLUE JACKETS (25-30-11) at DUCKS (30-27-8)
Columbus 3-4-3; Anaheim 5-4-1
Fourth and final meeting of the regular season. Columbus captured the first two matchups, one in a shootout, before Anaheim prevailed 3-1 in the most recent meeting on Dec. 12. Rick Nash
and Jakub Voracek have two goals apiece for the Blue Jackets, while Bobby Ryan
and Joffrey Lupul have each scored twice for the Ducks.
Time has essentially run out on the Blue Jackets, and it's ticking down rapidly on the Ducks as well. They can't afford to let games slip away like they did Sunday night, when a 3-1 lead in the final minutes of regulation against the visiting Canadiens evaporated into a devastating 4-3 shootout defeat. Anaheim begins play Tuesday six points out of a playoff berth but 12th in the Western Conference.
It all went south in a hurry Monday night as Columbus faced Los Angeles in the middle game of three straight on the road. The Kings put four on the board in the first period, chasing goalie Steve Mason
, and the Blue Jackets never challenged in a 6-0 loss, their fifth in a row.
"That was embarrassing," center R.J. Umberger
said. "We didn't play smart. We are our own worst enemies out there."
A do-or-die seven-game homestand got off to a flying start when Anaheim opened up a three-goal, first-period lead against Montreal on the strength of goals by Corey Perry
, newcomer Lubomir Visnovsky
and captain Scott Niedermayer. Even after the Canadiens got on the board in the second, courtesy of a Tomas Plekanec goal, the Ducks' lead seemed secure. But Gionta cut the deficit to one with 1:50 left, Andrei Markov forced overtime with 10.7 seconds remaining and the goalie pulled and Plekanec struck again in the fourth round of the shootout to stun the Honda Center faithful.
"With the way we played early in the game, we should have been able to get these two points tonight," Niedermayer said. "They just hung around and waited for a couple of mistakes. They took advantage of it."
Niedermayer has three goals in Anaheim's last four games and eight points in the last seven games. Perry has two goals and two assists in his last four games.
Nash (lower body) left Monday's game, adding injury to insult for the Jackets, who were already without forward Kristian Huselius
(hand) and defenseman Rostislav Klesla (groin). … Lupul had back surgery in December and remains out of the Ducks' lineup.
Voracek had a goal and seven assists during a six-game points streak that ended when Columbus was blanked Monday. … Jonas Hiller
is 3-1-1 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in Anaheim's last five home games.
These teams haven't seen each other in nearly three months, and much has changed since then. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the starting goalie for the Ducks in the first two matchups and a former playoff hero, was traded to Toronto. The Blue Jackets fired Ken Hitchcock and replaced him with interim coach Claude Noel.