"We have to get our top guys going," John Tortorella said after Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh.
While the Jackets didn't win the game against Winnipeg Thursday, they found a way to answer Tortorella's challenge by producing four goals, all from forwards, in a 5-4 loss to the Jets.
The Jackets got on the board first for the 50th time this season. Nick Foligno broke up a Jets' pass, carried the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone before firing a shot past Eric Comrie from the left circle to make it 1-0 6:58 into the first period.
But the Jets, who were outshot early by the Jackets, found a way to respond. Winnipeg stole the momentum off a four-minute power play where they scored with 20 seconds left on the man advantage and added two more scores to build a two-goal lead before Brandon Saad would answer back.
Saad tied up the game 3-3 with two skilled plays. His first goal of the night came 7:12 into the second when, after taking a pass off the boards from Oliver Bjorkstrand, he skated into the zone and across the crease to score. The second came five minutes later off a rebound off his own shot when the puck got behind Comrie and Saad tucked it in.
Once again the Jets surged. They produced two more goals in the third period to re-gain the lead, but the Jackets wouldn't relent. 14 minutes into the final period, Boone Jenner put himself in front of the net to receive a pinpoint pass from Scott Hartnell at the goal line to narrow the Jets' lead to one goal.
The Jackets couldn't find a way to produce the tying score and lost their fifth game in a row.
"There's guys in this room that it's their job to generate offense," Foligno said. "It was nice to see certain guys step up and get goals. Four goals is a lot this time of year. That's the good part. The disappointing part is that you shouldn't have to get six to win a game. That's the situation we found ourselves in and it can't happen.
"We understand what we did wrong ,and there are some areas we need to tighten up, but we're going to find that even keel and sharpen up."
Here's what we learned:
Video: Foligno on generating offense despite the loss
This team knows how to generate offense.
The Jackets played their style of play tonight offensively. They were fast, skated north and had multiple skill plays; including the threaded pass by Hartnell on Jenner's goal, and Alexander Wennberg's effort that kept the puck in the zone and set up the rebound for Saad's second goal of the night.
The team produced a four-goal burst of offense. That's something the Jackets haven't seen since Mar. 19 when they beat the Devils in New Jersey and clinched a playoff spot.
Foligno scored his second goal in the last ten games tonight. Saad had gone four games without a goal before his two-goal performance, and Boone Jenner had his third goal in the last ten games. The last time Jenner had scored was the Devils game, when the Jackets clinched the playoffs, and he put two pucks in the net.
Getting forwards back on the score sheet isn't just a sign that guys haven't lost their scoring touch, it's something that invigorates the confidence of the guys whose job it is to score goals.
"It's important for our team," Foligno said. "Our 'D' were carrying us for a while. All the scoring came from forwards tonight, that's big."
Video: Saad on tuning up for the playoffs
Structure can be addressed.
With all the goals coming tonight, the Jackets may have chosen to pay too high a price by sometimes cheating on defensive play with the intention to get more offensive production.
"Our defense, not our 'D,' struggled from the standpoint of some weird lapses," Foligno said. "But it's going to happen when you're thinking about offense a bit more. So we're going to find the right balance and fix it."
But fixing things like rush coverage and giving away too much of the ice down the middle can be addressed. They are also things this team has proven they know how to do.
"I think we can rectify some of our mistakes a lot easier on the defensive part," Tortorella said. "That's structure. I think the offensive part is confidence and mindset within a player. Sometimes it's hard to coach the offensive (side of play). We'll coach the other things and get us back. We haven't been too far from playing good defense, we'll get that back."
Video: Bjorkstrand on adjustments that need to be made
Jackets are starting the playoffs on the road.
With the loss tonight and a Penguins win, the Jackets not only know they will start the post-season against Pittsburgh, but they know that they will be the road team starting off their first seven game series.
But that's not a bad thing.
"I like going on the road," Tortorella said. "I think there's a lot of pressure on the home team those first couple games. I think home ice the advantage is in game seven. I'm not saying it because we're at that spot right now, I like starting on the road."