The Jackets battled back from a 3-0 deficit against the Washington Capitals Sunday to come within a goal of tying the game, but ultimately fell by a score of 3-2.
The loss marked the first time this season that the Jackets have lost three consecutive games. With the Penguins win over Carolina earlier in the day, the Jackets move to third in the Metro Division with four games left to play in the regular season.
The first period was a spirited 20 minutes. But in the second period, the Jackets allowed two Washington goals in the first three minutes of play before the Capitals added a third halfway through the period.
The Jackets fought back in the third. But it was a costly battle.
In a game marked by post-whistle scrums and roughing calls, it was early in the final frame when Zach Werenski absorbed a hit against the boards from Alexander Ovechkin and left the game.
The remaining five defensemen answered the call by providing some offense.
First, Jack Johnson ended Braden Holtby's shutout bid 9:22 into the third with a skilled individual effort. Johnson carried the puck into the zone, stick handled the puck around a Capital player or two and dragged the puck before rifling a shot past Holtby to make it 3-1.
Six minutes later, Kyle Quincey took a pass from Brandon Saad and fired a shot from the left point for his sixth of the season.
Sam Gagner provided the secondary assist on both goals and earned his 400th and 401st point in the NHL.
"That was playoff hockey," Nick Foligno said. "Those are the fun games to play, I thought guys stepped up. Everyone played hard tonight. It's one of those things where we have to learn, especially in playoff series, the team that wills themselves over the other team more nights than not is going to win the game."
Video: JJ on his goal tonight
Here's what we learned.
The team needs to be ready to play.
Head coach John Tortorella said he was happy with how the team played minus ten or so minutes in the first. But the opening frame of play was of concern. The Capitals owned the shot battle in the first, and "had more jump in all facets of the game" according to Tortorella.
Once the Jackets got back to their game, the momentum shifted. The Jackets outshot the Capitals in both the second and the third, and mounted a comeback that just fell short.
"We allowed them to play the way they wanted to and the result was a 3-0 game," Foligno said. "Then we come back out and started playing the way we want to and started taking it to them and really, they don't have an answer."
Offensive challenge - finish.
Both Jackets goals came from defensemen tonight. The forward group remains in search of the scoring touch they've exhibited throughout the rest of the season. But, while shots aren't goals, and chances aren't wins, there are encouraging signs that the team is doing the right things. Now, they have to find a way to get the puck past opposing goalies.
"I think the last two games we developed 17 scoring chances tonight," Tortorella said. "We had 17 last game. That's a lot of chances within a game. We just haven't finished. Second period we had six odd man rushes, but we didn't finish.
"I think in the last couple games we've developed more offense, we just haven't scored. It's tough to win when you're scoring one and two goals. We haven't had to live through that much this year."
Video: Alex Wennberg on the team's late push
Let's get physical.
The regular season gets closer to its end and the games get more and more physical. It's the nature of the beast. It's a part of the Jackets game that they want to own night in and night out.
Tonight, scrums erupted throughout the game and there were six separate instances of roughing called for a total of 14 penalty minutes. But as Jack Johnson said, it wasn't any more physical than expected.
Of concern, of course, was the hit Werenski suffered that saw him leave the ice. Tortorella said after "it's a hit."
And then there was the resulting scrum in the third, as every skater seemed to find a dance partner in a scuffle and even Holtby and Sergei Bobrovsky skated a bit closer to the action.
"I let Ovechkin know that I was there, and he can't be doing that to our top 'D.'" Josh Anderson said. "That started a little scrum. That's what teams are going to try to do, they are going to try to hit our top defensemen. We have to push back."