The Blue Jackets saw their 10-game point streak end with a 2-1 loss against Colorado on Saturday night in front of another sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena.
Game in a Paragraph
In a matchup of the NHL's best offense in Colorado and one of its best defenses in Columbus, the Blue Jackets won the style of the fight but couldn't finish off a solid performance. Columbus earned a power-play goal in the second period to take a 1-0 advantage, but Colorado's offense finally came alive and scored twice in the final two minutes to earn the come-from-behind win.
Video: CBJ Recap: Jones scores in 2-1 loss to Avalanche
Quote of the Game
Head coach John Tortorella: "We had 10 or 11 chacnes in the third period to go up 2-0. They had two chances and they scored two goals. First period, we defended our (butts) off. Did we spend too much time? Yeah. Third period, I thought we were on our toes, played our best period, quite honestly the best period in the last two nights. We can't find a way to score, they score on two chances."
- Seth Jones overcame an early injury to score his sixth goal of the season, a power-play tally that gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead in the first.
- Elvis Merzlikins made 20 saves in another strong outing, though his eight-game win streak came to a close. Before giving up a third-period goal, his shutout streak reached 174:40, the third longest in CBJ history.
Quick Recap (PHOTO GALLERY)
The first period was scoreless in a game of cat-and-mouse as the two teams battled to see which style would rule the day. Colorado's top scorer, Nathan MacKinnon, did hit the post while on the power play in the first, while Columbus defenseman Markus Nutivaara had a chance in front with a yawning cage only to see Matt Nieto poke the puck away at the last second.
There was also a late chance for Colorado in which a long shot by Andre Burakovsky was deflected in front and hit the crossbar, then post, before ricocheting back across the goal line and wide of the post.
For Columbus, the most worrying moment came with about eight minutes left in the frame, though, as Jones appeared to suffer a right leg injury when he crashed into the post after making a strong move to the net. He skated gingerly to the bench and then left for the rest of the first period.
He came back to start the second, though, and that proved vital as he got the lone goal of the period, a power-play tally at the 9:30 point. After a Boone Jenner faceoff win, Jones skated onto the puck and let loose a wrister from the high slot that got by the blocker of goalie Philipp Grubauer to make it a 1-0 game.
Colorado had some chances to tie later in the period but could not convert, including one frantic shift where Merzlikins had to go from left post to right post back to his left as the Avs threw pucks toward his net, then dove behind his net to cover up the puck as it came off the back boards. He also made another good stop on MacKinnon and got a little more luck in the dying embers of the period as Cale Makar hit the crossbar on the power play.
Columbus pushed to add to its lead in the third period, putting 11 shots on goal in the first 10 minutes of the period to Colorado's one and also seeing Riley Nash and Oliver Bjorkstrand hit the iron, but it stayed a 1-0 game.
The Avalanche, then, tallied on just their second shot on goal of the third to make it a 1-1 game with 8:15 to go. After Nathan Gerbe was knocked off the puck by a hard, clean hit, Nazem Kadri worked himself open at the left dot and fired a shot past the glove of Merzlikins for his first goal allowed in more than eight periods.
Then, a moment of individual brilliance with 4:34 to go gave Colorado the lead. As the Avs entered the zone, MacKinnon had some space on the left side and let go a missile of a one-timer that got by the blocker of Merzlikins for his 31st goal of the year.
That proved to be the difference as Columbus could not find the tying goal late despite pulling Merzlikins for an extra attacker.
1. We'll start, then, with Merzlikins, whose athleticism was again on full display as he had to make a number of saves that bordered on the acrobatic. He also got a bit lucky with the posts hit by the Avs, but perhaps the most interesting part of his evening was his postgame press conference. He was not happy about giving up the game-deciding goal to MacKinnon and was clear about it. "You saw the goal," he said tersely. "It was a shot from the blue line, no screen. I don't care that he has a good shot. I have to take that one. There is nothing more to say about it." At the same time, it was absolutely howitzer of a shot by one of the NHL's top goal scorers, but Merzlikins' mind-set was notable in his answer. "He's an absolutely competitor in the net," Jones said.
2. They say styles make fights, and this was certainly an intriguing one. Colorado came in leading the NHL with 3.69 goals per game and a deep roster of players who can put the puck in the net, while Columbus' recent success has been built from a strict adherence to a concentration on defense. It's fair to say the Blue Jackets' won that battle, though, as this was far from a track meet. The Blue Jackets held a 32-22 edge in shots on goal as well as 27-11 advanage in scoring chances and an 11-2 edge in high-danger chances at 5-on-5 per Natural Stat Trick. Defensively, it's fair to say given the competition, the CBJ's defensive effort was on point. "Same thing as we've been doing here in this long stretch of games," Jones said. "We've had success playing this way."
3. Then, perhaps, the focus turns to the fact the Blue Jackets got just one goal, and the team has only four tallies in the last three games. Oddly enough, though, Columbus might have played its three best consecutive performances in a while during that span, controlling play and scoring chances for most of those contests. Many would say that if Columbus keeps playing that well, it will keep winning a lot of hockey games. Others might say the lack of goals in the last three games shows a team that needs a little more scoring punch as the games get tighter down the stretch. The players? "We have to learn from tonight that when we get some chances offensively to look for that next goal," Jenner said. "It's a good lesson." Our take? It's encouraging just how well the Blue Jackets have played over the past week, as the team's game has rounded back into form.
Jones' power-play goal ended a four-game stretch without one for the Blue Jackets, who finished 1-for-5 with the man advantage. … The Blue Jackets' penalty kill was 2-for-2, improving to 20-for-21 over the last 11 games. … Nick Foligno played 23:50, topping 23 minutes in ice time for the second consecutive game. ... Columbus lost for just the third time in regulation in the last 26 games and the first time since Jan. 9 at San Jose, meaning the point streak lasted nearly a month. ... A sellout crowd of a season-high 19,022 fans served as the ninth sellout of the season and the seventh in the last 10 home games. … Colorado had been the only team in the NHL without a win when trailing entering the third period (0-11-1). ... The Avs swept the two-game season series.
Columbus made two changes to the lineup after Friday night's game. Forward Kevin Stenlund went in for Ryan MacInnis, while Andrew Peeke drew into the lineup for Scott Harrington. Joonas Korpisalo also was scratched.
The Blue Jackets host Tampa Bay on Monday night to complete the four-game homestand. The national TV game will face off at 7:30 p.m.