No strangers to controversy, the two teams had been affected by "Clock-gate", repeated trade rumors and the surprising trade of Jack Johnson to Columbus in exchange for disgruntled forward Jeff Carter and a first round pick. Interestingly, the teams' goaltenders were also tied together, with Kings backup Jonathan Bernier getting the start against embattled netminder Steve Mason -- who had taken Bernier's starting job with Team Canada during their World Junior careers.
With the Blue Jackets celebrating Carter's first game back at Nationwide Arena by offering fans a free nameplate change on their jerseys, the crowd was primed to give the Kings a frosty reception. The home team would also face several key missing players, with defenseman Fedor Tyutin done for the season after blocking a shot against Phoenix on Tuesday and shutdown forward Derek Mackenzie out with an upper body injury.
Despite the roster shakeups, the Jackets would open the scoring midway through the first period, when James Wisniewski's point shot was redirected past Bernier by another Jackets acquisition -- former Penguin Mark Letestu.
With Los Angeles' Willie Mitchell called for a high stick shortly after the Letestu goal, the Columbus power play attempted to build their lead, but a turnover in the neutral zone by Derek Dorsett would lead to Dustin Brown throwing the puck up to Anze Kopitar, who cut around the collapsing Columbus defense before shuffling around Steve Mason and scoring past his outstretched leg pad for the shorthanded goal.
The Kings attempted to capitalize on the shorthanded goal, but it would be the former Los Angeles defenseman who broke the tie in favor of Columbus, pinching in and taking a drop pass from Derick Brassard before hammering a one-timer with 8.5 seconds left in the first period. It was an appropriate buzzer beater given the two teams' history this season.
Columbus extended their lead early in the second period when recently-recalled forward Maksim Mayorov burst into the Los Angeles zone and fired on net, setting up a rebound that Letestu converted for his second goal of the night.
With a two-goal lead for the Blue Jackets, both teams would begin escalating their physical play, leading to a moderate line brawl between Alec Martinez, Derek Dorsett, Matt Greene, and Darryl Boyce, but the energized and entertaining game took a frightening turn when Jarret Stoll sent John Moore into a collision with Mason, where the goaltender was badly cut by Moore's skates, requiring 20 stitches to his hand and wrist. Curtis Sanford replaced Mason in net for the rest of the game, though the injured goaltender did return to the Columbus bench in the third period.
The Kings tried to take advantage of the goaltending change, but could not capitalize. Getting into their own way with additional penalty trouble, the Kings had difficulty generating any offensive traction, only credited for 13 shots against Sanford in just under 30 minutes of play.
With the Blue Jackets racking up 36 shots against Bernier, the Kings would finally attempt to pull their goaltender after a late icing penalty, hoping to get back into the game. The Jackets would appear to have a perfect opportunity to ice the game when R.J. Umberger broke away on the empty net, but his stick snapped when attempting to fire a shot into the open cage, sending the puck wide.
Despite missing on the empty net, the Jackets would hang on for their 3-1 victory, their fourth in a row, with Johnson taking the game-winning goal against his old club. Carter finishing with no points, a -1 rating and repeated boos from the crowd ringing in his ears.