It seems that every week, the Columbus Blue Jackets find a way to shoot themselves in the foot and be counted out of the playoff race by the rest of the league.
Their first game back from the All Star Break, the Jackets lost a hard fought battle with the Chicago Blackhawks, surrendering seven goals to the defending Stanley Cup Champs. Columbus saw a 3-2 lead in the second period vanish as Chicago scored four unanswered goals to seal the victory.
The Jackets' week would not get any easier as their next trip was to Detroit where they had not won in eight straight attempts. On the day of the game, rumors started to spread that the Blue Jackets would become sellers and names like goalie Steve Mason and young winger Jakub Voracek emerged as possible trade candidates.
Neither would let the rumors get to them, especially Mason, as he went out and shut out Detroit in the Jackets 3-0 victory. Mason's 17th career shut out could not have come at a better time for Columbus as every two points is critical if the Jackets want any chance of getting back into the mix.
The backcheck for Columbus was stellar in front of Mason, taking away any chance Detroit had of building momentum and getting themselves back in the game.
While the backcheck played well, the forecheck took advantage of a struggling Jimmy Howard. The big highlight came in the first period, when rookie Matt Calvert dished to a speeding Antoine Vermette coming off the bench who rocketed a one timer by Howard that the Wings goalie would later say he didn't even see.
Columbus could not have executed their game any better as they went in to Hockeytown and took the crowd out of the game. They stuck to their gameplan and overpowered the veteran Red Wings.
The Jackets would not get any time to celebrate as they had to get back to Columbus to face the last place Edmonton Oilers the following night.
Mason's start was nothing like 24 hours before as the Oilers got out to a quick 2-0 lead. The past 48 hours have been just a glimpse into what Steve Mason's season has been like. On some nights he would show signs that the rookie of the year was regaining his stride. But on others he would show that he may not have been so worthy of the offseason contract extension.
However, on this night, Mason's teammates would not let this game go down with out a fight.
The Jackets had so many breakaway and odd man chances throughout the game, that you had to think that one would eventually hit pay dirt.
With under six minutes left in the first period, RJ Umberger got one past Nikolai Khabibulin to put the lead within reach heading into the second period. The Blue Jackets came out fired up in the second, but no goals were tallied until the final five and a half minutes when Kristian Huselius, who was a healthy scratch in Detroit the night before, put one in between Khabibulin's legs to tie the game at two.
As the teams headed into the third period, it was clear that the Jackets had momentum. However, no one gave that memo to Edmonton, as they quickly scored on Mason, giving them the 3-2 lead.
The period went on and the Jackets continued to fight, but could not find the back of the net. That was until RJ Umberger pulled off a highlight reel goal, putting the puck in between Linus Omark's legs before finding the back of the net.
With the game tied 3-3, RJ Umberger would cap his night with his second assist, feeding Kristian Huselius for his second goal of the night to give the Blue Jackets the much needed 4-3 win.
So on Super Bowl weekend, when everyone is focusing their eyes on the big game in Dallas, the Blue Jackets are only focusing on getting back into the playoff race. With the two wins in a row, Columbus finds themselves only five points behind the eighth place Kings.
The Jackets will look to continue the streak when they go into Pittsburgh Tuesday night to face a Penguins team who is without Sidney Crosby, who is nursing a concussion, and Evgeni Malkin, who tore both his ACL and MCL in his return from a previous injury last week. The Jackets look for a little revenge, as the Penguins stomped Columbus the last times these two teams met.
Being a Cleveland Browns fan, I hope the spirits in Pittsburgh are low on Tuesday night because a certain football team could not pull off the victory in Dallas. But that's just me.