Remember what John Tortorella said about the Blue Jackets having a target on their back, and how they were going to get every opponent's best game the rest of the way?
That statement was a perfect prognostication for tonight's game at Nationwide Arena.
With both teams on the tail end of a back-to-back, it was the Devils who started the game on the front foot. They weathered two first-period power plays for the Blue Jackets, who hadn't had a power play since prior to the All-Star break, and slowly mounted a commanding 3-0 lead through two periods.
Down 3-0 after 40 minutes, the Blue Jackets fell victim to some self-inflicted damage and couldn't make it hard enough on Cory Schneider, who played a solid game in goal for New Jersey. They didn't get one past him (well, one that counted) until 11:35 had gone by in the third period, when Matt Calvert struck for a shorthanded goal.
It was a disappointing 5-1 loss in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,566 on home ice, a standing-room only group that had little to cheer about for most of the game. The Blue Jackets need to re-group quickly, with a road game in Detroit Tuesday followed by a seven-game home stand that begins Thursday night against Vancouver.
"We certainly didn't have enough guys going," Tortorella said. "As you go through the year…these are the games that (are) a grind and you have to learn how to play them. There are no easy games in this league. You have to be ready at all times; I thought there were probably three or four guys who were ready, and from there, it's a long list of guys who fell into that (where) it was a bit of a struggle."
Video: Torts' reaction to the Blue Jackets' performance
Here's what we learned:
RETURN OF THE POWER PLAY: Well, it was rusty. When the Blue Jackets tried to get set up in the offensive zone, they struggled to get to the "inside" part of the ice, meaning they didn't create enough high-danger scoring chances. Many of their looks were from the point or from the half wall, and the Devils did well to prevent any second chances. For a team that had only practiced the power play in the last week-plus, there were some expected cobwebs for the Blue Jackets, who at times had trouble executing a clean breakout.
They were hoping to use those two early chances as a way to get an early lead, but it was lacking precision and execution.
"We need to take care of business at home," Boone Jenner said. "I don't think our compete level and our battles were at the level that they can be. To win each night in this league, you have to raise that, especially in games like this when the other team is checking well. It was there at times, but not throughout the game."
DEATH, TAXES, CALVERT SHORTY: Trailing by three and about to kill a penalty, you may not have thought it to be the ideal time to start a comeback. Well, not to say you should've seen it coming, but it wasn't a huge surprise to see Calvert and William Karlsson getting involved offensively while down a man. They've been a solid tandem on the penalty kill, and needing a goal to get things going, they took a couple of chances and it paid off; Karlsson took an aggressive route behind the net and picked off a pass, then hit Calvert for a bang-bang play in front of the net and Schneider had no chance. The goal was his third shorthanded tally of the season, which is tied for most in the NHL.
Video: NJD@CBJ: Calvert capitalizes on turnover for SHG
Unfortunately, it was the only bit of offense for the Blue Jackets, but it was a well-executed play that gave them a much-needed jolt in the third period. It just came a little too late.
"On nights like this, you're going to have to win battles and work for your extra chances and get guys to the net," Calvert said. "That's something we didn't do enough of until the third. We've got to have a better effort every night."