The Blue Jackets dropped Game One of the opening round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 3-1.
The Jackets came out fast and furious, but allowed an eight-minute lapse in their play that ultimately cost them the game. Opportunity to right the wrongs awaits on Friday when Game Two will be played. As head coach John Tortorella said, "that's why this is a series."
The Blue Jackets dominated the first period offensively creating 78.03% of all even strength shot attempts and owning the shots on goal battle 16-3. But Marc-Andre Fleury, who was announced as the starter after Matt Murray was injured in pre-game warmups, stopped everything he saw. The Penguins defense also kept the Jackets out of the high danger zones and the first 20 minutes ended without a score.
In the second period, the Penguins flipped the script. Bryan Rust scored on Pittsburgh's first shot of the middle frame, and Phil Kessel, who assisted on the opening goal, notched a power play tally of his own just two and a half minutes later. Nick Bonino added a third goal with just under four minutes to go in the second to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead going into the final frame.
Matt Calvert ended Fleury's shutout bid 12:41 into the third, when Josh Anderson took the puck away from Conor Sheary and fed Calvert in the slot. The left-winger fired past the Penguins' goaltender for his third career NHL playoff goal. With the assist, Anderson notched his first NHL post-season point.
"I think for about eight minutes or so in the second period (we lost our momentum)," Tortorella said. "They score their first one, I still think we're ok after the first one. After the second one I thought we lost ourselves for a little bit. They surged, and we hung on for a bit. I still thought we had some good minutes in there.
"We're going to have to find more offense here. They can score obviously; I think they score three goals on their first five chances. We're going to have to find a way to get to the inside and bang away and create more offense."
Video: Dubi on losing momentum tonight
Here's what we learned.
Get higher-danger scoring chances.
The Jackets came out on top of the shot-attempt battle as far as total count, but what they didn't do was drive enough traffic to the front of the net and into high danger areas. That is something that the Jackets want to rectify because getting the most shots isn't enough, getting the right shots and capitalizing is what matters.
"We have to do a better job getting to their net and getting to their blue and making sure we get pucks there," Brandon Dubinsky said. "They blocked a lot of shots as we knew they would, so we have to do a better job getting them through.
"They do a good job in the corner. We have to do a better job of using our points and spreading them out a bit more. They shrink hard, you're not going to win a lot of battles in this league playing two-on-three so we have to get our support closer (to the net) which has been a big part of our success this year."
Video: Calvert on the importance of his goal tonight
After controlling play for the first twenty minutes the Jackets knew the Penguins were going to come out hard in the second. Tortorella has talked about how one of the most important things in post-season play is controlling momentum - gaining it, keeping it, and fighting to get it back when you lose it.
For those eight minutes the Jackets fell into a lull in play where they lost the momentum and it cost them against a skilled Pittsburgh team that will take advantage of any chance you give them.
"We deflated a little bit," Calvert said. "We have to learn how to put it behind us and move on to the next shift."
Zach Werenski is back.
After missing four games due to injury, rookie Zach Werenski returned to the ice for the Jackets in his NHL post-season debut and looked like he hadn't skipped a beat. The defenseman led his team both in shot attempts, (12) and shots on goal (6) in 25-plus minutes of ice time.
After the game, Werenski said he felt really good physically, and had no restrictions on his play.
"What can you say about him?" Tortorella said. "He hasn't played (for a few games), he's a 19-year-old kid, and I thought he put on a show. I thought his determination and the things he does…I hope it rubs off on other people on our team because that was inspiring to me to see what that kid can do."