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What We Learned: MIN 3, CBJ 2 (SO)

Blue Jackets fight back, manage to earn a point

by Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

It's something the Blue Jackets must figure out during the final two-plus months of the season.

They've fallen into a troublesome habit of starting games with a good effort, and then tailing off in the next 40 minutes, particularly in second periods. It happened again Tuesday at Nationwide Arena, and was a big reason Columbus lost 3-2 in a shootout against the Minnesota Wild in both teams' first game coming out of the All-Star break.

The Blue Jackets (27-19-4) led 1-0 after the first period, on a goal by defenseman David Savard and the first 11 of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's 41 saves. Things fell apart at the outset of the second, again, as the Wild outshot Columbus 20-11 and tied it on a power-play goal by Jason Zucker just 4:25 into it.

"They just elevated their game and we didn't match it," said center Brandon Dubinsky, who returned to action after missing 18 games recovering from a fractured orbital bone in his face. "They got going, right from the first puck drop. We gave up a couple chances. We took that penalty there [on Zucker's goal]. It's a mental thing. We've got to figure it out."

They Jackets usually figure things out during the course of the game, swinging momentum back their own way, and did that again in the last 10 minutes of the second period. The problem is the Wild didn't crack during that late push, and the game was still knotted, 1-1, going to the third.

Minnesota took a 2-1 lead on Charlie Coyle's goal at 12:10 of the third, which forced the Blue Jackets into another corner. Artemi Panarin pulled another huge goal out of his bag of tricks, tying it 2-2 with 5:12 left in regulation, but it turned out to be good enough for only one point in the standings instead of two.

Panarin scored in the second round of the shootout, as well, but the Wild got shootout goals from Chris Stewart in the first round and Zach Parise in the fourth to win the game.

The bigger issue for the Jackets happened much earlier, back when Minnesota charged out of the locker room after the first intermission and seized control of the game - outshooting the Blue Jackets 14-3 in the first 10-plus minutes.

"That's the part we've got to figure out," Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. "We can't have so many ebbs and flows in the game. There's already enough to begin with. It can't come from us."

It's come from them too often this season, and way too often the past three weeks. This was the fifth straight game the Blue Jackets have been affected negatively by a second-period letdown, going 2-2-1 in those games.

They've now been outscored by opponents 55-41 in the second period and 54-45 in the third. Conversely, Columbus is outscoring the opposition 35-27 in the first period.

"That's what I don't like," Foligno said. "You look at our effort in the first period, and we were dominating. Then, the second period hits and the effort goes away, and they come right back and start dictating, and it takes us awhile to get the momentum back again. That seems to be our biggest problem right now as a team."

Coach John Tortorella seemed to agree.

He didn't have many words following the game, but the few he said spoke volumes. Tortorella held Panarin out as an example the Blue Jackets should try to emulate more often, a 170-pound forward who's tenacious in puck battles.

"Buck-seventy," he said. "He weighs a buck-seventy [170]. He wins all his battles."

That's all about effort, which currently seems to rise and fall like a rollercoaster for the Blue Jackets at the moment. It's a great way to keep fans on the edge of their seats, but not a great way to secure a playoff spot within the tightly-packed Metropolitan Division.

This overtime loss gave the Blue Jackets a point, which was good, but it also dropped them from second in the division to the Eastern Conference's first wild-card spot by just three points over the first two teams looking in from the outside.

"I thought we played a good last half of that second period, or eight minutes, whatever you want to call it, but we shouldn't be looking for wake-up calls in the middle of the game," Dubinsky said. "I mean, this team knows how to play hard, so we're going to expect that out of each other moving forward."

Here's what else we learned: 

I: PANARIN TO THE RESCUE

Panarin already has a nice stockpile of highlights from his first season with the Blue Jackets. The dynamic Russian left wing added another to the list against the Wild.

Less than three minutes after Minnesota went up 2-1 on Coyle's goal at 12:10 of the third, Panarin responded. He made the Wild pay for a delay-of-the-game penalty called when Zucker sent the puck over the glass from the defensive zone, scoring his 13th goal just 15 seconds into the power play.

Panarin's wrist shot zipped past a screen in front of Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, knotting the game 2-2 on his second point of the game. Along with some great work by Bobrovsky, the Russian tandem assured the Blue Jackets of at least one point.

"It was pretty big," Cam Atkinson said. "Obviously, you want to come away with two points, but we found a way. We stuck with it. It's just one of those things where it was a good one point. It was better than nothing, and we'll just move on."

Video: MIN@CBJ: Panarin nets blistering slapper for PPG

II: DUBINSKY DIALED IN

It's been a long, frustrating seven-week stretch for Dubinsky.

His left eye socket was fractured in a fight Dec. 12 against Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian, at the end of a game the Oilers won 7-2 at Nationwide Arena. He needed surgery to install two plates in the bone for stabilization. His vision was initially affected.

The recovery timetable of six-to-eight weeks put him on the sidelines, where all he could do was watch his teammates play, and then he eventually returned to skating in practice with a visor that he's now required to wear, per doctor's orders. Dubinsky also left last week's road trip early, attending to what he said were "medical issues" that set social media abuzz.

All of it piled up into a ball of motivation for the 31-year old veteran, who stepped right back into a key role centering the third line for the Jackets on Tuesday.

"It's just good to be back on the ice," said Dubinsky, who logged 14:57, spent 54 seconds killing penalties and was on the ice when Savard scored. "It's good to be back in the locker room, and back on the ice. For me, it's a good first game to build off. It's been a long time."

III: EVERY TENTH COUNTS

The Blue Jackets caught a break at the end of the second, when Bobrovsky couldn't stop a shot by Tyler Ennis from the top of the right face-off circle with time running out.

Bobrovsky got a piece of it, but the puck skipped off him and went into the net. The play was quickly reviewed and not counted. Replays showed the puck didn't cross the goal line until time had expired.

Instead of a 2-1 lead and a huge momentum lift, the game remained 1-1 and the Blue Jackets heard their fans cheer when the replay was shown on the video screen.

"It's a big play for sure," Dubinsky said. "I mean, you go into the third down a goal versus tied, you don't know what's going to happen. It certainly helped us."

IV: SHOOTOUT ARTIST 

Getting back to Panarin, the shootout goal he scored was his sixth in 10 attempts this season for a blistering 60 percent success rate.

It also pushed Panarin to 11-for-17 and 64.7 percent in two-plus NHL seasons. He leads the NHL in shootout goals this season, and has become as close to a sure thing as you'll find in a shootout. 

V: FOLIGNO VS FOLIGNO

Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno and Minnesota Wild forward Marcus Foligno logged another installment in their annual "brother versus brother" rivalry.

The Folignos didn't get a chance to face each other Oct. 14 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., because Marcus was injured during a fight two days before the game. That made this game even more special than it usually is for each of them, and upped the ante between them.

"I'm just really proud of him, as an older brother," Nick Foligno said of his younger sibling. "I get to train with him all summer, and see the advancements he makes, so I'm proud to see how he's doing and how well he's fit in there."

Each of them look forward to their head-to-head clashes, but keep everything in perspective.

"It's always fun when you play your brother," Marcus Foligno said. "It always makes it interesting, no matter what game it is, or how many games we've played against each other. It's always a lot of fun to get that, not nervous, but a certain feeling you don't get playing a regular game. Sometimes, you catch yourself watching him when you're on the bench and he's out there, and vice versa. So, it's always been a fun rivalry."

VI: DIFFERENCE OF OPINION

The Blue Jackets iced their usual top defense pairing of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones, which rubbed Wild coach Bruce Boudreau the wrong way to start the day. The NHL ruled that Jones, who missed the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Sunday with the flu, didn't have to serve a one-game suspension for his absence.

Players have served one-game suspensions for missing All-Star weekend in recent years, and this season, but Jones' case was ruled an exception because the NHL asked him to stay home in order to prevent spreading his illness.

Boudreau called it a "ridiculous," decision and said the rule was, in his opinion, now a gray area, "for ever and ever."

Columbus responded with a statement from John Davidson, the team's president of hockey operations. Davidson explained the NHL ruling to start his statement, and then addressed Boudreau's complaints.

"Not every instance regarding injured or ill players missing the All-Star Game is the same, and I'm sure if this specific situation had involved Minnesota or another team, that team's coach would have a different opinion on the matter," Davidson said. "If Seth had not been cleared to play tonight, he wouldn't play. Because he's been cleared, he will play, which is the way it should be and how we'd feel if this had happened to a team we were playing."

Jones logged 26:37 and finished with an assist on Panarin's game-tying goal, his third straight game with an assist.

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