The Wings battled valiantly and had a tournament to be proud of, but it's always disappointing not to finish first. While the players have every reason to be proud of both their efforts and the results, the overwhelming feeling from the players immediately after the game was distinct disappointment. Four Playoff caliber games in 5 nights is a grueling challenge for every team in the tournament and by the end everyone is going to be worn out. The Jackets had more jump and energy in this game and after the Wings emotional comeback against the Dallas Stars, they looked like they were starting to suffer burnout. They gave everything they had, every last drop, but in the end it just wasn't enough. The Columbus Blue Jackets won the Matthew Wuest Memorial Trophy and have now won the Tournament two years in a row.
The Wings fought hard to do anything to score goals and on their power plays, including a 5 on 3 and a pulled goalie for about 5 minutes, they did everything but score. They looked fatigued, both mentally and physically and the Jackets took advantage. Both teams had a waived off goal, there were several kerfuffles, including a big scrum and a few punches after the final whistle, and the referees gave out plenty of warning to players to stop certain behavior or they'd get a penalty next time.
In the second period Anthony Mantha had to leave to get a cut on his hand stitched up, Tomas Nosek had to leave to get his skates re-sharpened, and Evan Polei missed part of the period for a currently unknown reason. As a result the lines were juggled and already tired players were called upon to give a little extra from their already drained tanks.
It stings to lose and "2nd place" can sometimes feel worse than last place because you came so close to victory only to come up short. I'm proud of all the players for their efforts and performances in the tournament and they have nothing to be ashamed of.
The Blue Jackets took the early lead, scoring just 1:16 into the game and they never let up or relinquished that lead. Nick Moutrey put the Jackets on the board when the puck took a crazy bounce over Jake Paterson's shoulder. Paterson made the initial stop with his right pad, but the puck bounced straight up, over his shoulder, and into the net. It was going to be one of those kinds of nights.
At 14:18 of the period, with Joe Hicketts in the box for interference, Josh Anderson put the Jackets up 2-0 with a power play goal that hit Jake Paterson and once again bounced up and in.
Tomas Nosek put the Wings on the board a minute and a half later Evgeny Svechnikov dug the puck out along the boards and sent it to the net. The Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo made the pad save but a rebound came straight out, Nosek was once again going to the net to follow through, grabbed the puck and shot it up and over Korpisalo's right shoulder. So the period ended with the Wings out shooting the Jackets 12-7 but trailing 2-1 on the score sheet.
Unfortunately the 2nd period scoring went exactly as it had in the 1st, with the Jackets scoring two more and the Wings getting a late goal to end the period. Oliver Bjorkstrand gave the Jackets a 3-1 lead.
And 5 minutes later Paul Bittner extended their lead to 4-1.
The Wings had one final goal left in them when Andreas Athanasiou tipped in a harmless looking shot from the point by Ty Stanton. Unfortunately that would be the last of the Wings scoring and they'd finish the 2nd period down by a score of 4-2 after being outshot 13-9 in the second period.
Kerby Rychel poured salt in the wound in the 3rd when he gave the Jackets the 5-2 lead that would also be the final score.
The final shots were 28-26 in favor of Detroit. The Blue Jackets deserve full credit for playing a very good game, but I can't help but feel that's it's morally unjust that they're the recipients of the Matthew Wuest Memorial Trophy, when Matthew was such a Wings fan, and someone who dedicated so much of his life to the Wings prospects.
Another whirlwind tournament has come to an end and I'm sad that it has to end. I'll have full highlights for the Championship game in the coming days as well as more prospect related posts.