"It's the kind of game where both coaches probably think their team deserves a point."
That's how John Tortorella described Monday's 3-2 loss by the Jackets to the New York Rangers, and he wasn't wrong. For the second consecutive game, the Jackets came out ready at the starting whistle and fought through to the final gun, playing a solid game.
Brandon Dubinsky got the Jackets on the scoreboard first off a no-look pass from Brandon Saad, but it was the only time the home team would hold the lead. The Rangers scored the first short-handed goal against the Jackets this season, then added a second off a breakaway when Kevin Hayes stole the puck off David Savard's stick as he received a pass from Jack Johnson.
While captain Nick Foligno tied the game in the latter half of the third, Rangers' rookie Jimmy Vesey scored just his second goal in 17 games to hand the Jackets their fourth loss in the last seven games (3-4-1).
The Jackets out shot the Rangers 32-23 and out attempted them 58-50 but did not drive pressure in front of the net.
"We played a good game," John Tortorella said. "I thought (their goalie) made a few key saves…but I thought we were going to tie it there at the end. We'll look at the tape, there'll be some good things out of it, we just have to keep trying to move on here.
"I'm not upset with a bunch of the minutes we played. I just don't like the free stuff we gave them."
The game was a penalty-riddled affair. Columbus gave the Rangers five power play opportunities and couldn't capitalize on any of the four they were given.
Of concern tonight, Scott Hartnell did not play in the final two periods of the game after he went hard into the end boards after chasing down a puck against Rangers' Nick Holden.
Here's what we learned:
Video: Torts' reaction to a 3-2 defeat to New York
Special Teams Status
The Jackets don't have a power play goal since Jan. 22, but there's caution in taking that statistic at face value. In the fourteen games in January, Columbus had five power play opportunities once, four opportunities five times, and three opportunities three times.
Going into Monday, February has afforded them no more than two chances a game. The Jackets went 0-4 tonight, and the struggle right now is real, but Tortorella was also quick to point out that Dubinsky's opening goal rocketed past Antti Raanta just as the penalty clock ticked to zero.
"I think its execution," Dubinsky said. "We have to execute better, both units. We have plays we pre-scout, we know what we need to do, we just have to execute. Special teams are going to be huge especially down the stretch. We did a good job killing, we got to do a better job executing on our power play and if we do that we'll be fine."
The penalty kill unit did step up, stopping all five of the Rangers' power play opportunities. But there was one other error…
Video: Dubinsky on a lackluster power play tonight
The saying "game of inches" may be overused, but in a tight Metro Division, any mistake can be costly. The Jackets held a 1-0 lead going into the second, but that was erased quickly by a short-handed goal 12 seconds into the middle frame. New York pounced on the opening faceoff and moved the puck across the zone quickly before a shot tipped off Zach Werenski's stick and beat Sergei Bobrovsky.
"I thought we gave them some free stuff tonight in a hard-fought game," Tortorella said. "I thought we played really well. (But the shorthanded goal) was for free. We battled back and couldn't find a way to get a point.
We don't like silver linings, but they exist
The Jackets kept pace with one of the fastest teams in the league, bested them on shot attempts, and the outcome of the game wasn't clear until the final buzzer sounded.
The ultimate goal in any game is standings points, of course. But for a group that until recently seemed to be searching for the emotional investment necessary to battle night in and night out in the dog days of the NHL season, Monday marked the second consecutive games that the group played with tenacity as well as skill.
"No one should hang their head here," Foligno said. "We played a heck of a hockey game. We've been on the other side where we haven't played well and we've won. I hate silver linings because it's not the result we want. That effort (tonight) more times than not is going to give us the result we want."
Stat of the Game:
When Brandon Saad was on the ice for 5-on-5 play, the offense was going the Jackets' way. The team had 19 shot attempts as compared to allowing just four by the Rangers. It was the largest shot differential (+15) among all Columbus players tonight.