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Jackets 'close' on power play, but can't extend winning streak

Columbus got chances, but no goals on man-advantage in loss to Canadiens.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

MONTREAL - It's been a topic of discussion all season, but the Blue Jackets are tiring of talking about their lack of success on power plays this season.

They're ranked 31st in the NHL with an 8.9 percent success rate (6-for-67), have three power-play goals in their past 15 games (3 for 43) and went 0-for-5 in a 3-1 loss Monday to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre, which ended their season-high six-game winning streak.

The issue this time was a combination of Canadiens goalie Carey Price being sharp and the Blue Jackets simply not scoring when they had opportunities.

"I am tired of dissecting our power play," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "We had 10 chances on the power play. Tonight's problem was we didn't finish. We developed a lot of scoring chances on it."

His frustration with the lack of success, and the questions that inevitably follow, is clear.

"This is my last night speaking on the power play, because I'm tired of talking about it," he said. "I'll leave it at that."

There was reason for optimism, however, packed into this latest disappointment. It's tied to all those scoring chances Tortorella mentioned. The Jackets had plenty of them - good ones, at that - but they just didn't go into the net.

One of the three times Columbus players rung pucks off metal happened during a power play. It was near the end of the second of two power plays the Blue Jackets were given within the first five minutes of the second period.

Zach Werenski got the puck in the slot, dragged it around Nicholas Deslaurier's sliding block attempt and fired a quick wrist shot at the Canadiens' net. It sailed past Price, but clanged off the crossbar and skipped into the safety netting to stop play.

An inch lower, and it's a power-play goal.

That one didn't even count as one of the Blue Jackets' 13 shots on goal with a man-advantage.

"We were close," Werenski said. "I think we did everything but score. A lot of shots, crossbar … like I said, we did everything but score tonight."

Werenski opted to look on the bright side. Odds are, power-play goals will eventually start happening with regularity if the Jackets continue to generate shots and scoring chances like they did against Montreal.

"It's close," Werenski said. "It's coming. We're not too worried. I think tonight was a positive sign on the power play."

They won't have to wait long to give it another shot.

Columbus hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena in the finale of a back-to-back, and the hope is that it will kick-start an extended run of power-play success. The Jackets have proven they can win consistently without it working, but it would be a lot easier to get some offensive help via special teams.

"We had quite a few opportunities, but it's huge in games like these," said forward Boone Jenner, who had seven of the Jackets' 38 shots on goal. "They got one [on the power play] and we didn't, and we had every opportunity. It's just about finding a way to get it done. When you've got the chance, you've got to bury it."

News & Notes

COACHES CHARTING 'BOB' CLOSELY: Tortorella wasn't happy with the goal Bobrovsky allowed to open the scoring Monday night, with a shot from the right face-off circle by Brendan Gallagher sneaking through him to the far side.

That doesn't mean it will factor into whether Bobrovsky starts against Carolina, which would be his ninth in a row. It might, but Tortorella said his goaltending decisions are usually pre-charted according to the schedule and information he gets from conversations with goaltending coach Ian Clark.

"My decision-making isn't always going to be [based] on how well 'Bob's' playing," Tortorella said. "Each day we look at it. [Clark] and I talk quite a bit as far as what our schedule looks like."

Tortorella doesn't reveal his goaltending choice prior to game days. He's also fond of saying his choices are made on a day-to-day basis. That's not entirely true, as it turns out.

"I'm not going to say we go day-to-day," he said. "I say that to [reporters] because I don't want to give information on what's going to happen, but we do have a forecast and we look at the schedule. And it's certainly not based on wins and losses, and play. But that could change. If we feel 'Bob's' tired, it may change the schedule, but we have a pretty good idea of what we want to do with our goalies."

Joonas Korpisalo hasn't started for Columbus since Nov. 7 against the Nashville Predators, but has made two starts for the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League in that span.

"The organization's done a terrific job with our second goalie the past couple of weekends, getting him a game," Tortorella said. "He has played well."

WENNBERG NEARING RETURN, DECISIONS LOOM: Center Alexander Wennberg missed his sixth game with an upper-body injury, but skated in the morning Monday with three teammates, including injured forward Matt Calvert (upper body).

It was the first road trip for Wennberg and Calvert since their injuries, which have kept them each out for much of this month. Calvert remains on injured reserve, but Wennberg said Sunday that he's close to returning.

Whenever he does, Tortorella will have decisions to make. One is which forward to take out of the lineup. Another is whether to leave rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois at center, shifting captain Nick Foligno to a more natural position at wing.

"You're still going to change your lines, but I'd like to get at least two guys with each line playing together," Tortorella said, prior to the game Monday. "I don't want to blow up all the lines. This is a game for me tonight to watch [Dubois'] line. Can they rebound?"

The answer was yes. Dubois' line, which includes Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson, was one of the Jackets' best and produced the only goal for Columbus. Anderson created a rebound chance, and Dubois cleaned it up late in the second period.

"I thought we were playing really well, but last game [against Ottawa] was maybe a slower game, which happens," Dubois said. "We knew we had to bounce back. I thought it was a slow first period, but we kept going with the pressure."

IN 'BOB' THEY TRUST: Sergei Bobrovsky made his eighth straight start in net for the Columbus. It was also his 267th game for the Blue Jackets, which pushed him past Marc Denis (266) for most starts in franchise history.

Bobrovsky was also named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday for his outstanding play in three games last week.

"It's amazing what the mind does for a team, and when your goalie is playing as well as he is, confident each and every night, you don't see a big change in his steadiness and his competitiveness," Foligno said, prior to Bobrovsky making 25 saves against the Canadians. "Then you step out there, and know you can make some plays and do some things and he's going to be there to back you up. That's not to abuse the privilege, but it's knowing that's why you have him there. He's definitely made us play bigger."

MILANO BUILDING TRUST: Tortorella has used a bank analogy before to describe how trust works between him and players, as far as earning ice time. Each player has an account at Tortorella Bank & Trust, and each contain varying amounts.

Sonny Milano's account is sort of like one of those starter savings accounts for kids. There isn't much in there right now, but the rookie forward is beginning to steadily add to it each game. His defensive play has been the key.

"Sometimes that goes quickly the other way, because the bank account isn't that big," Tortorella said. "That has to mature between both of us, and he understands that. My assistant coaches are always talking to him about that, have showed him tape. He's on the right road."

SEDLAK STILL HEALING: Lukas Sedlak played his third game since returning from an ankle sprain that kept him out nearly a month (13 games). The Jackets' fourth-line center said he's getting his timing back, but is still trying to add strength back into his ankle.

"I don't really have the strength in it," he said, prior to playing 9:40 against the Canadiens. "I'm falling down a lot, I realized. Sometimes, instead of trying to stand on my one leg, if I'm getting hit or something, I would rather fall down because I don't want to mess it up, I guess. Maybe I'm a little bit careful there, but during the game I don't really think about it."

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