The Blue Jackets have never fared well in the
Xcel Energy Center, where pesky Minnesota Wild teams have combined
with incoherent and unfavorable rulings from the NHL’s video review
room in Toronto to spell doom.
What Blue Jackets fan could forget Wes Walz’s
metaphysical winning goal during the 2006-07 season? Or Rick Nash’s
disallowed winner two seasons ago on a sketchy ruling that he
redirected the puck with a high stick?
Last night, a short-handed goal by Blue Jackets winger R.J. Umberger midway
through the third period withstood inspection by the NHL watchdogs,
and it stood as the winner in a 3-2 victory before an irate crowd
Derek Dorsett and Derek MacKenzie also scored for the Blue Jackets, and goaltender Mathieu
Garon had 21 saves in his first start of the season.
But it was Umberger’s goal — his third of the season — with
9:32 remaining that lifted the Blue Jackets, despite a sinking feeling
when it went to review.
“That was going through my mind,” Nash said. “We’ve always been
on the bad side of calls here, it seems. But tonight it was a
different story, and it won us a game.”
Umberger was sprung loose by a Chris Clark pass off the boards
in the neutral zone. Umberger made a slick move to get around Wild
defenseman Cam Barker, put a shot on goaltender Niklas Backstrom
and jabbed at the puck as he skated wide of the net.
Before he made it around the back of the net, Umberger began
pointing at the net to signal a goal. He even traded high-fives
with Clark and defensemen Marc Methot and Rostislav Klesla, a
brazen show of confidence given the Jackets’ history in this
Replays showed the puck was under Backstrom’s right pad and
clearly over the goal line. All four officials on the ice ruled it
a goal, Nash said, and after a two-minute break for Toronto, it was
allowed to stand.
“I saw it clearly,” Umberger said. “Dragged the puck into the
net. It was a good five inches over the line. It was kind of half
under his pad.
“I saw it the whole way, but I give the refs credit. They saw it
on the ice, they called it on the ice, and they stuck with it.”
The Blue Jackets desperately needed a
quality performance after the way their home opener — a listless
5-2 loss to Chicago on Friday — played out.
Coach Scott Arniel considered making some line changes, but
instead he challenged his players and left the lineup intact.
“If you’re going to challenge guys,” Arniel said, “you have to
trust them to play through it.”
Unlike a night earlier, the Blue Jackets found the balance between
pushing the puck up the ice and not playing with too much risk.
They held the Wild to just two shots on goal in the first
“That’s the best thing about back-to-backs,” Nash said. “When
you play like crap the first game, you can erase it pretty quick
with a win. That’s what we did.”
The Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead with 6:46
left in the first period, thanks to the fourth line. Dorsett dived
over a pile of bodies to poke a loose puck over the goal line.
MacKenzie made it 2-1 at 9:33 of the second period when he
one-timed a nifty pass from center Derick Brassard only two seconds
after a power play expired.
* R.J. Umberger, RW, Blue Jackets: Third goal of the season,
and it was a winner.
* Chris Clark, RW, Blue Jackets: Reappeared, with two
assists and a plus-2 rating.
* Derek MacKenzie, C, Blue Jackets: Netted a power-play goal,
took a team-high four shots.