The Blue Jackets didn't play poorly tonight, and unfortunately for them, Mike Condon played really well.
Their first period was solid and their pace slowed in the second period, but it seemed as though the home team started to warm to its game early in the third period. Two of Columbus' best chances came while shorthanded, and a point-blank look for Cam Atkinson (denied by Condon) off a great Zach Werenski pass felt like the game in a nutshell.
Close? Yes, but just not sharp enough to break through and make things interesting. Condon made 42 saves for his third shutout of the season, dropping the Blue Jackets to 30-10-4.
Columbus had only a small handful of dangerous scoring chances in the first two periods, but the ice started to tilt in the third. Brandon Saad, Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno all had opportunities in close but failed to convert, and the two-goal deficit they faced with 20 minutes to play felt like a mountain as the game got older.
They had their moment, too: Condon sailed the puck over the glass while trying to clear it himself (with Ottawa already down a man), giving the Blue Jackets a 5-on-3 for 1:01. On the ensuing two-man advantage, Seth Jones hit the post with a one-time rocket, Foligno squeaked one through Condon's arm, but no damage was done.
It was that kind of night.
"I didn't think we were awful," coach John Tortorella said. "I think we had a number of good looks at the net, but Condon played well. The first two periods, he saw every shot. There was no one in the blue. We ended up with some pressure, but couldn't score."
Here's what we learned:
MISSING A GEAR: Once the Blue Jackets found some jump and got going in the third period, they were able to generate high-percentage chances. They got to the net, worked for second and third looks and retrieved pucks better than they did in the first two periods. Condon was there for all of them, even atoning for his own mistake late in regulation. Who knows what would have happened if the Blue Jackets had that kind of energy in the first and second periods, but in any case, it ends up being a frustrating loss that had them shaking their heads.
Tortorella said the Blue Jackets had at least a dozen scoring chances in the third period alone.
"I don't think we got in front of (Condon) enough tonight," Foligno said. "You could see a couple of chances we're just too cute; usually when you simplify it and focus more on shots, that's when the floodgates open for your team. There's going to be times when it feels like it's just not going in, but you can't get away from what makes you successful.
"We're more of a direct, straight-line team and we have to get back to that in the offensive zone."
Video: Foligno on what the CBJ could've improved on tonight
A COUPLE MISTAKES: When you look at the other end of the ice and see the opposing goaltender putting on a show, it puts a lot of pressure on all areas of your game. Often times, a team feels like it must be perfect and avoid the big mistake, because that's all the other team might need to put the game away. Such was the case tonight; the Blue Jackets turned a puck over leading to Ottawa's first goal, a nifty breakaway tally from Kyle Turris. In the second period, they couldn't get organized after killing a penalty and it allowed Ryan Dzingel to shake free in front of the net, giving him an easy tip-in to make it 2-0.
"I don't think there was a lack of chances - we just didn't score," Johnson said. "They only needed one tonight to win, so we put ourselves in a tough spot."