Red Wings spoil Columbus playoff party
NHL playoff hockey came to Columbus for the first time on Tuesday night, but the Blue Jackets were dismantled by the Detroit Red Wings for a third consecutive game as their series nears a quick end.
Henrik Zetterberg scored twice, Dan Cleary had a goal and two assists, and Tomas Holmstrom also scored for Detroit in the 4-1 victory.
R.J. Umberger recovered from a jarring hit to score the first-ever home playoff goal for the Blue Jackets, but the team trailed for nearly 59 minutes and is threatening to repeat the four-and-out playoff franchise debut of the Atlanta Thrashers two years ago.
The Red Wings can close out the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final series in four games on Thursday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
"Everyone talks about a best-of-seven. Really, it's a race to four" coach Mike Babcock said. "You want to get to four as fast as you can."
Chris Osgood wasn't tested much in Game 2, but he earned his keep on Tuesday with 31 saves.
At the other end, Steve Mason was beaten just 67 seconds into the game. Marian Hossa's shot went off the crossbar and trickled towards the goal line, with Holmstrom putting the rebound home.
"It was an exciting game for the first playoff game in this building," said Zetterberg. "The fans were excited. We tried to defeat that, too."
Osgood stood tall early when Kristian Huslieus led a 2-on-1 and fired a shot that the Detroit goalie snared.
Huselius was denied on the very next shift by an Osgood pad save.
Columbus enjoyed a power play late in the period but could do no better than a Jason Williams slapper from the point into Osgood's chest.
Detroit made them pay for that missed opportunity when Cleary took Johan Franzen's pass in the slot and wheeled around and fired past Mason with just 45 seconds left in the period.
The Red Wings were relentless on a shift five minutes into the middle period but Mason held firm, covering up on Niklas Lidstrom's point shot.
Mason stoned Zetterberg seconds later with a glove grab while Columbus couldn't score at the other end when Jakub Voracek's shot was corraled by Osgood.
Umberger — who famously got knocked out by a playoff hit against Buffalo three years ago — was creamed again when Brad Stuart's shoulder drove into his head on a blue-line hit.
He was helped off the ice but would eventually return.
Seconds after Mike Commodore went flying into Detroit's bench after a collision, Zetterberg scored his 30th career playoff game. Mason had no chance on the play, with Zetterberg left all alone on the doorstep.
Franzen had two assists in the game.
Raffi Torres had a chance to end the shutout just over two minutes into the third but could not beat the Red Wing netminder.
Osgood was good but got extremely lucky on a late power play. Fredrik Modin hit the post and later in the sequence the puck lay on the goal line before Stuart tucked it under the goalie for safety.
Columbus finally scored when Rick Nash set up Umberger in front. The centre pivoted and beat Osgood with a backhand shot.
Umberger has the only two goals for the team in the series, while it was the first NHL playoff point for Nash.
The goal came with less than four minutes left, however, and the Blue Jackets could not mount a furious rally.
Mason finished with 22 saves in the game.
About the only positive for Columbus was that after giving up four power-play goals in the first two games, they killed off both Detroit penalties.
It was undoubtedly of little solace to the franchise-record crowd of 19,219.
"We're in a sudden-death situation," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "And I know what we're up against. We're up against a real good team."