LOS ANGELES - It started out so well.
Playing with the same kind of jump they had Monday against the Washington Capitals, the Blue Jackets came out Thursday night at Staple Center and did the same thing against the Los Angeles Kings.
They scored the first two goals of the game, by Cam Atkinson 3:41 into the game and Seth Jones about 10 minutes later and led 2-0 after 20 minutes. The problem is those were the only two goals Columbus scored in the Kings' 5-2 win, which prevented the Blue Jackets from winning their third straight game.
"I thought they took momentum when they scored their first goal," Columbus coach John Tortorella said. "I think [getting] that third goal for us is very important. We had a couple of great chances … they score their first goal, they gain momentum and we just lose our composure."
The Blue Jackets (32-27-5), who haven't won more than two games consecutively since November, lost control with another drop-off in the second period, allowing three goals then and two more in the third.
Jonathan Quick made 30 saves for the Kings (36-24-5), who got two goals from Alex Iafallo and goals from Nate Thompson and Tanner Pearson - whose power-play goal with 3:27 left in the second period gave Los Angeles its first lead.
Christian Folin had a career-high three assists for the Kings, who won their third straight game.
Joonas Korpisalo started in net for the Blue Jackets, allowing five goals on 34 shots. It was his first NHL appearance since Feb. 14, when he allowed five goals on 27 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
"I think we get [our composure] back, but I thought Quick played better as the game went on," Tortorella said. "We didn't make as many plays, didn't play, certainly, as well as our first period, but I thought we had some good looks and some good things happen to our game. We just … we lost our composure and didn't fully get it back consistently enough."
It was a disappointing way for veteran forward Thomas Vanek to make his Blue Jackets debut and for captain Nick Foligno to return after missing four games with a lower-body injury.
"You look at the game, it was all momentum swings," Foligno said. "We come out absolutely flying in the first period, played an awesome first, and we've got to find a way to carry that [into the second]. You know they're going to make a push. They kind of get a nice bounce on the first [goal], but then they get their game rolling. [It's] disappointing because we had some good minutes and some of our lines were going. It's just not the outcome we wanted."
Here's what we learned:
I: WHAT IT MEANS
Before the puck dropped at Staples Center, the Blue Jackets knew they needed a win to prevent two teams behind them in the playoff race from gaining ground. The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers each won games played on the East coast to gain two points on Columbus before the Jackets even took a shift.
The loss didn't affect the Blue Jackets' placement in the Eastern Conference, as they still occupy the second wild-card spot, but their lead shrunk over the Hurricanes and Panthers. Carolina has 67 points, two points behind after the same number of games. Florida now has 66, pulling within three of Columbus with three less games played.
Video: Tortorella comments on momentum swing in King's favor
II: ANOTHER SECONDARY LETDOWN
It started fine, with the Blue Jackets leading 2-0 and drawing a penalty just 26 seconds into the second period.
Things, however, got progressively worse from there for the Blue Jackets.
The Kings stepped up their physical play, but it wasn't the lone reason Columbus allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Los Angeles not only killed off the Blue Jackets' early power play but also scored its first goal 22 seconds after Iafallo was let out of the penalty box. Nate Thompson wired a wrist shot past Korpisalo to the far side, ringing his shot off the left post and into the net at 2:48.
The Jackets didn't get a shot on goal during the early man-advantage and were outshot 1-0 during those two minutes.
"We've got to find a way to generate something there," Foligno said. "That power play looked discombobulated a little bit towards the end. Disappointing, but we've done enough good things that that should get shored up by [Friday's] game [in Anaheim]. But that's how it's going to work, right? They score a big power-play goal to get their lead and we didn't. It's going to be a special-teams battle down the stretch."
Thompson's goal cut the Blue Jackets' lead in half, 2-1, but Los Angeles was just getting started.
Iafallo followed it about two minutes later by tipping a point shot past Korpisalo from the low slot, tying it 2-2, and Tanner Pearson made it 3-2 with 3:27 left on a power play - tipping Drew Doughty's point shot into the net.
The Blue Jackets have struggled with second-period letdowns most of the season, and the issue bit them again. Their positive momentum was snuffed out on the first power play.
"We've been kind of inconsistent with that all year, we've been dealing with that," Jones said. "It's not our first periods, it's our seconds. That's been one of our things this year, not playing a 60-minute game. We're getting better, but we've got to be more consistent."
Video: Foligno details team's fast start and rebounding
III: SPECIAL TEAMS STRUGGLE
The second period was largely decided by special teams. The Kings' power play and penalty kill were nearly perfect and the Blue Jackets' had issues on each.
Columbus allowed Pearson's power-play goal, going 1-for-2 on the PK in the period and didn't score on either of its two power plays in the second. The Kings also scored Thompson's goal quickly after they killed off the Blue Jackets' first power play, shifting momentum quickly.
Video: Atkinson describes team's hesitancy after losing lead
IV: SUPER SETH
There are times within games that Jones displays the kind of skill that just makes you shake your head. For a big, tall, strong defenseman, the guy is really skilled and has an extra skating gear most guys his size just don't have.
He also has a heck of a wrist shot, which he proved on his goal to make it 2-0 in the first. After getting the puck in the neutral zone from Matt Calvert, Jones carred into the Kings' zone flanked by two teammates.
Rather than dishing it off, he skated straight at L.A.'s two defensemen in the slot and split them with a shot that beat Quick to the top left corner. It was his 10th goal, which brought him within two goals of his season total last season - which tied the franchise record for goals in a single season by a defenseman.
Video: CBJ@LAK: Jones labels top corner from high slot
Atkinson had another great scoring chance late in the second, which could've tied the game, but Quick made a great left pad save to stop the puck. Iafallo then made a save off the rebound against Panarin with either his left hand or body on an attempt by Panarin off the rebound.
The scoring chance was created off Dubois' stick, from the left-wing wall. The rookie sent a backhand feed past three Kings players to Atkinson charging to the net in the low slot. He hit him in stride, but Atkinson's deke to the backhand didn't fool Quick, who leaned to his left and then kicked his right pad out.
"[Dubois] made a great play, and I thought I had a good move on Quickie," Atkinson said. "But he was a little too quick."
VI: TOP LINE STREAKIN'
Video: CBJ@LAK: Atkinson buries Panarin's creative dish
Atkinson's goal continued a run of success for the Blue Jackets' first line, which includes Panarin and rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois.
The goal, scored off a backhand feed from Panarin, extended streaks for both players. Atkinson has goal and points streaks of three games, while Panarin pushed his season-high point streak to six games.
Atkinson has five points (three goals, two assists) in his point streak, while Panarin has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his point streak.
"He's a hell of a player, and obviously so is Dubois," Atksinson said. "I just try to give them the puck and get open. I try reading off them, and we've been playing pretty well. We had a lot of scoring chances as a line. Quick is a hell of a goalie. He made some good saves on us. You've got to tip your cap to him, but I think our line is going right now."
VI: A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN SIX YEARS
The answer is, "no," Jack Johnson no longer gets a rise out of playing the Kings in Los Angeles. After spending the first five-plus seasons of his NHL career with the Kings, he was traded to Columbus in 2011-12.
When did the novelty of playing his former team wear off?
Pretty quick, as it turned out.
"It was different the first time I came back," said Johnson, who was acquired by the Blue Jackets in a trade that sent Jeff Carter to Los Angeles. "It was just a different feeling. That was the first time I'd gone to play a team where I knew everybody on the other side. Now, there's only a few guys I know over there."
One of the guys he knows is Kings general manager Rob Blake, who was his teammate back then.
"The general manager was my defense partner, you know?" Johnson said. "I was living with him. A lot of things have changed over there. So, now it's just business as usual."
VII: NEXT UP
The Blue Jackets will head down the road to play the Anaheim Ducks on Friday at Honda Center (10 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go) to conclude their 15th back-to-back of the season. It's the second of a three-game road trip to play the three California-based teams.
The Ducks hold the second wild card in the Western Conference with 74 points, trailing the Kings (77 points) by three points for third in the Pacific Division. The trip will conclude Sunday against the San Jose Sharks, who are second in the Pacific with 79 points.