The Blue Jackets fell 3-2 to the Ottawa Senators Saturday. They are now 5-2-1 in their last eight games.
The night started well enough for the Jackets (40-17-6). Having notched the game winner Thursday against Minnesota, Brandon Saad picked up right where he left off. Just 2:17 in, Saad scored his 20th of the season off a Zach Werenski feed.
But Ottawa came back with two unanswered goals from Viktor Stalberg and Erik Karlsson and rode the 2-1 lead into the third period before scoring a short-handed goal on an empty net when Columbus went with six skaters on a power play with less than four minutes to play.
Sam Gagner added a late power play tally, his first goal in 31 games, to shrink the deficit to 3-2 but the Jackets couldn't find the tying goal before they ran out time.
Werenski provided the primary assist on both Jackets' goals tonight and in the process, set a new Blue Jackets record for assists by a rookie defenseman (30). He is also now tied with Rick Nash for the rookie point record (9-30-39).
"I think in the meat of the game we had a lot of chances," Gagner said. "It's just a matter of bearing down on a few. The game was there for us. It's a frustrating loss but we have another one tomorrow."
Here's what we learned.
Video: CBJ@OTT: Korpisalo flashes the leather on Borowiecki
You need to control neutral zone play.
By the numbers, it was a pretty even game between the Jackets and the Senators. Both teams had 27 shots on goal in all situations, and 21 each in 5-on-5 play.
But the Jackets found themselves stymied when it came to transitioning from defense to offense. There were stretches where Ottawa was able to hold their offensive zone for extended periods and the Senators tightened up their play in the neutral zone.
"They did a good job in the neutral zone, they weren't giving us much," Werenski said. "Everything we got was from goal line down, so we had to put pucks in and go get them. They are a tight checking team, but we have to find ways to break them down a bit and get more grade-A chances."
Video: CBJ@OTT: Gagner beats Anderson five-hole for a PPG
Is this the return of the offensive touch?
Thursday, it was Saad who delivered on the scoresheet and then found his touch again versus the Senators. Tonight, Gagner got back in the scoring groove after having not had a goal since Dec. 23. After the All-Star Week, this team saw Brandon Dubinsky's line ignite, and now other players' sticks also seem to be awakening just as the team hits the crucial final quarter of the season.
"You'd always rather win the hockey game but it's nice to get one," Gagner said. "Hopefully goals start coming and I can help win games that way.
"My overall game has been solid, it's just a matter of getting that feeling back where I'm putting pucks in the net. I know I have to score to help this team move forward so hopefully (tonight's goal) gets me going and helps the team in the process."
Video: CBJ@OTT: Saad fires a wrist shot past Anderson
The team will be aggressive, even if mistakes happen.
With 3:30 to go in the game, and the Jackets on the power play, John Tortorella pulled Joonas Korpisalo for the extra skater to give his team the 6-on-4 man advantage. But off the faceoff, the puck got past the Jackets and the Senators corralled it and sent it down the ice into the empty net for the ultimate game winner.
"It's a chance you take," Tortorella said. "I thought for most of the game we had zone time in there I wanted to get another player. I didn't expect them to score. I'm going to try to be aggressive there. When I see that there's a faceoff there, I see a stoppage of play and I wanted to go that way."