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What We Learned: NSH 4, CBJ 3

Third-period push not enough as Jackets drop final game before All-Star break

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL /

The Blue Jackets headed to Nashville for the last game before the All-Star break and, though they were in Music City, they couldn't find their rhythm and fell to the Predators by a score of 4-3.

It was just the third time this season, but the second time in January, the Blue Jackets have lost consecutive games.

Early on, the game didn't seem like it'd go the way of a sad country song. Brandon Saad scored his 16th goal of the season to put Columbus on the board first. But after a strong 20 minutes, the Jackets rode out time on the penalty kill in the second, and ultimately gave up three straight goals to Nashville.

"Did we manage the puck and execute as well in the second? Obviously not," assistant coach Brad Shaw said. "But I thought the effort was there…we stayed with it. I thought (in) third period we got back on the attack and played the type of hockey we need to play."

Columbus fought back in the third. Zach Werenski and Ryan Murray each notched goals to bring the score within one goal on two occasions, but the final pushes by the visitors were not enough.

The Blue Jackets played this game in the absence of head coach John Tortorella, who left Nashville due to a personal matter. But credit to the way Tortorella has worked with his coaching staff all season; Brad Shaw, Brad Larsen and Kenny McCudden were with the team at ice level.

"Once the game starts, I don't think (the change) really has much effect. We're pretty much plugged in on lines and assignments," Shaw said. "The tone of the voice might change, but the message is the same."

Video: Zach Werenski on the benefit of the All-Star break

Here's what we learned:

Second periods are a problem, but not *the* problem.

Part 1: mental resilience.

A troubling storyline that has emerged for the Blue Jackets in the past few games is their second period play. This trend has resulted in yielding an abnormal number of scoring chances and goals to opponents, taking penalties and becoming disjointed.

After Thursday's game, many players are looking to tease out the answers to curb this behavior. The Blue Jackets feel they are coming out strong through their first periods, and tonight's score sheet supported that claim. But it's natural to expect one's opponent to adjust to the challenge and it's managing that response that is key for this Columbus team.

"I'd like us to be a little more resilient mentally and play through the other team's push that you know is coming," Shaw said. "We've let the other team have there way where, 15-20 games ago, we absorbed that and kept on playing. It's something we have to get back to and correct and be a bit mentally stronger.

"We're getting other teams' A-games and that's a little different feel. It's something we're going to have to refocus on and get our ability to withstand the other team's best four or five minutes and plow through it and get right back to our A-game."

Second periods are a problem, but not *the* problem.

Part 2: limiting chances.

Part of the Jackets' early success came from not just sound play, but capitalizing on opponents' lapses. For Murray, who had his first goal of the season tonight, returning to the team's winning ways isn't just about pushing through and maintaining their style of play, it's about causing havoc in the way other teams perform on ice.

Video: CBJ@NSH: Saad tallies from high slot to open scoring

"Every team has good players and they are going to have their pushes," Murray said. "We just have to eliminate theirs as best we can and eliminate their chances. So that even if we give them zone time they really get nothing. Even though they have the puck they'll get frustrated and it plays into our hands. I think that we're giving up too many chances and the other team is pushing in too many goals."

Aaaaaaand, break!

Since the Blue Jackets' 16-game win streak ended, the team has gone 5-7-0. This weekend's All-Star Game marks a four-day period when teammates get to go their separate ways; and even if some, like Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, and Sergei Bobrovsky, are together in Los Angeles for NHL festivities, everyone will have time away from the routine they've been locked in to since September.

"We've been struggling here as of late. I think it's a good time to regroup," Jones said. "We can get away from each other. Obviously we like being around each other, but we need to be away from each other right now. Sure guys will enjoy time with their families and we need to come back Tuesday ready to work and ready to go."

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