Jackets' OT Thriller Continues March to the Playoffs

Tim BielikSenior Analyst IMarch 19, 2009

For the last few games, the mantra for the CBJ has been the "March to the Playoffs." Meeting a division rival and potential first-round opponent, the Jackets came out on top, thanks to a dramatic walkoff goal in overtime to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3.

Newcomer Antoine Vermette continued his hot start by adding the game winner after the 'Hawks dominated a scoreless third period.

Rostislav Klesla, who had a rough night, helped set up the game winning rush with the outlet pass to R.J. Umberger, who set up Vermette with the game-winner.

Although Nationwide Arena was not a sellout, it sure sounded like it. Playoff atmosphere was in the air as the season winded down.

Columbus remains sixth in the Western Conference, four points behind the Blackhawks for the important fourth spot and six points ahead of the Mendoza Line for playoff qualifying.

Rookie superstar, G Steve Mason, made 24 of 27 saves in the game despite giving up the opening goal on the first shot just one minute into the game.

The game appeared to be a high-scoring affair after a 2-2 first period. Only two more goals were scored before Vermette's game-winner on Cristobal Huet.

If people don't think this game meant anything, look at the reaction of Huet in the above picture.

There is a reasonable chance these teams will meet again in the playoffs, and if tonight's game was any indication of the future, hockey fans might not be disappointed.

The Jackets remain the only team in the NHL never to make the playoffs. After a decade of existence, GM Scott Howson has managed to merge talented F Rick Nash with terrific young talent in C Derrick Brassard and F Jakub Voracek.

Combining that talent with solid veterans and sleeper trades to acquire Vermette and C/F Jason Williams has done plenty to improve their playoff odds. And of course, having a stud in Mason between the pipes doesn't hurt either.

Most teams don't want to play the Blue Jackets come playoff time. Nationwide will be rocking come mid-April, and with good reason: they have a team worthy of their hungry fanbase.

Playoff positioning in the middle three spots in the West of four, five, and six are separated by few points. If the CBJ steals home-ice, they can look back at Antoine Vermette's winner as the reason why.