Everything about Saturday night’s game was a perfect representation of how the 2010-11 season came and went. There was an optimistic start – flying, in fact – and moments that made the sell-out crowd come off their seats in excitement. There were moments that made the members of each team’s respective fanbase cower in their seats shaking their head. There was a heart-breaking turning point that would ultimately cost the Jackets; and an agonizing, painful end to the game.
Derek Dorsett got the Jackets on the board early in the second with a tricky, quick wrap-around past Ryan Miller. It was only Dorsett’s fourth goal of the season and his first since February 1. From there the scoring was fast and furious: three minutes later by Buffalo’s Pominville, four minutes after that by Buffalo’s Butler, another four minutes later by Buffalo’s Ennis. The Jackets finally got back on the board by another unexpected goal scorer, Jared Boll, who would notch his seventh (first since February 4th, and two more than his career best) on a rebound off of a Matt Calvert shot. Going into the third period it was 3-2 Buffalo.
This game clearly meant more to Buffalo than to Columbus, but for the first half of the game, Columbus was really fast and furious and looked nothing like the team they had been for the last month. Like they were prepared to send the season out on a positive note. Guys were playing for jobs, playing for future contracts, and playing for one last shroud of dignity. One last chance to leave a lasting impression in the minds of the disgruntled fan base. But they got sloppy, just as they had after the trade deadline and had been in December.
2:37 into the third period, a guy who could potentially be playing for his future with the team in Kristian Huselius, notched a goal past replacement goaltender Jhonas Enroth, and for the better part of the third period it was a tight 3-3 game. But then something happened in Craig Rivet’s aged little brain and he went absolutely ballistic, cross-checking a former teammate in the head, and would be escorted to the locker room at the 11:44 minute mark with 17 PIM. Immediately, on the five-minute major, Stafford and Gaustad would go back to back to give the Sabres a 5-3 lead with more than six to go.
Much to the dismay of the Jackets fans in attendance, things weren’t looking good. But hey, familiar feeling, right? Kristian Huselius would make it interesting, briefly, by scoring a PPG with 0:23 to go, but it wasn’t enough. The Sabres won the last game of the Blue Jackets season, and sucked the life out of Nationwide Arena. A game – and a season – that once held so much energy and promise, slowly, gradually, spiraled in and out of control until one, fine breaking point that would send them over their edge.
Thanks for the memories, even though they weren’t so great.