The Blue Jackets dropped their sixth game in a row with a 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Game in a Paragraph
Columbus fell into an early 2-0 hole as the Flyers scored twice in the first five minutes, then Philadelphia made it a 3-0 game in the second. A late goal in the period gave Columbus life, but the Flyers finished things off and chased Elvis Merzlikins in the third period despite being outshot 29-15 in the game.
Video: CBJ Recap: Bjorkstrand scores 20th goal in 5-1 loss
Quote of the Game
Head coach John Tortorella: "I don't think we played a bad game, certainly not a 5-1 game, but we need to continue to remind ourselves how we have to play the game."
- Oliver Bjorkstrand became the first Blue Jacket to reach 20 goals on the season, tallying to give himself a 13-5-18 line in his last 16 games.
The Flyers got off to a dream start, scoring on their first two shots to take a 2-0 lead in the opening 4:30. The first tally was a fluky one, as Kevin Hayes tried to center the puck from behind the net and saw it deflect off CBJ defenseman Andrew Peeke, then Merzlikins before bounding into the net to make it 1-0 at 3:28.
Just 1:02 later, the Flyers had a 2-0 lead. Claude Giroux sprung Sean Couturier on a breakaway with a pass that got through Peeke's legs, and Couturier appeared to partially fan on his shot but it still threw off Merzlikins and slipped through the goalie's legs to make it 2-0.
Philadelphia also got the puck behind Merzlikins a third time as Ivan Provorov scored off a nice Hayes pass on the rush, but Columbus challenged for goaltender interference and won the challenge as Joel Farabee was ruled to have impeded Merzlikins in the crease.
Columbus had just three shots on goal in the first but had 12 in the second, with Flyers goalie Carter Hart making some big early stops on the same shift on Zach Werenski and Bjorkstrand.
Then the Flyers made it a 3-0 game at 12:32 of the second as for the second time a Philly goal went in off the skate of Peeke. Philippe Myers skated in from the right point and tried to center a pass across the crease to Michael Raffl, but it hit the skate of Peeke and deflected by Merzlikins.
Columbus got a lifeline, though, as 17:21 of the period with a power-play goal. Some nice puck movement opened some space that Emil Bemstrom exploited, as he found Bjorkstrand in front for an easy finish past the glove of Hart to make it 3-1.
But just 3:40 into the third, the Flyers made it a 4-1 game and chased Merzlikins. Off a faceoff, Robert Hagg threw the puck into traffic in front from the left point, and Travis Konecny got a piece of it to redirect it past Merzlikins for his 20th goal of the year.
Matiss Kivlenieks came into the game in relief of Merzlikins at that point, but he was rudely welcomed by former CBJ forward Jakub Voracek as the former CBJ forward scored on the power play at 10:14 off a cross-crease feed from Konecny to make it 5-1.
1. The Blue Jackets have said they aren't thinking of this back-to-back with Philadelphia, a team they're battling for playoff positioning, as any more important than any other games down the stretch. But you can see why others are, so to come out and be in a 2-0 hole less than five minutes into the game was deflating to say the least. That both came on fluky plays - the first going in off Peeke's skate, the second a mishandled breakaway that threw off Merzlikins - added salt to the wound, as did a third goal that also went in off the skate of the rookie defenseman. "I thought we came out fine," Bjorkstrand said. "We just had two kind of funky goals there, one from the side that took a bounce. The second one he mishandled it a bit and it went under our goalie's pad. No excuses, but we had to fight our way back there."
2. And the reality right now is that being down 2-0 is a tough hill to climb for a Blue Jackets team that just isn't getting scoring. Columbus has played 10 games since coming back from the All-Star break and has exactly one goal in six of them. Injuries certainly are real - just having Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson and Seth Jones out of the lineup is 77 goals and 162 points from a year ago that are unavailable, and that's just one-third of the injury list - but the Blue Jackets keep saying that can't be an excuse. On this night, the team was frustrated with not getting pucks to the net, including a first period that featured just three shots on goal. "It seems like we pass up on the really easy play, which is just shooting it, just getting it there," Foligno said. "Bounces off a goalie like against us tonight, just getting pucks to the crease, they go in against us. We have to find a way to do that to teams."
3. So, now what? The loss put the Blue Jackets on the wrong side of the playoff bar for the time being, and the 0-3-3 run hasn't totally killed the team's postseason chances but has put a dent in them with 21 games to go. Tortorella has said the team can't lose its confidence and belief right now, as those are two key pieces to the team's recent success. On the ice, it does appear the Blue Jackets are searching a bit for their game, but they're still saying the right things off of it. "I am not worried about that," Tortorella said. "I am not worried about that at all. I think we have the proper mind-set of how we're trying to approach this. We'll get ready to play the next game." And that game is huge, as a response will be needed against the Flyers.
Merzlikins gave up more than three goals for the first time in 19 starts since becoming the CBJ starter when Joonas Korpisalo went down with injury. He stopped eight of 12 shots, while Kivlenieks made two saves on three shots. … Werenski got an assist to give him a 10-6-16 line in the last 22 games. ... Nick Foligno's slashing penalty with 11:00 to go in the game was the Blue Jackets' first penalty taken in the past two games. … The Flyers have a 3-0 lead in the season series after Columbus swept all four games a season ago.
The Blue Jackets kept the same lineup the last two games. Scratches were forward Kole Sherwood, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson and goaltender Korpisalo (injury).
The Blue Jackets face the Flyers again, completing the season seires Thursday night in Nationwide Arena.