The Blue Jackets dropped a 4-2 final to the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.
Game in a Paragraph
A standout performance by their goaltender helped the Blue Jackets overcome an early 2-0 hole and make it a 2-2 game after two periods against a Nashville team that still hasn't led after 40 minutes all season. However, things fell apart in the third as Nashville scored twice in the opening 45 seconds and then held on from there to drop Columbus to 8-7-4.
Quote of the Game
Seth Jones: "We just can't put 60 minutes together at the moment. It's not the way we want to come out after we battle back to make it 2-2 and reset our minds and want to come out and have a good (third) period and let up those two goals."
- Gabriel Carlsson scored his first career NHL goal in his first game of the season.
- Boone Jenner tallied his sixth goal of the year, good for second on the team. He has three goals in the last five games.
- Elvis Merzlikins made 35 saves on 39 shots against before having to leave with an injury early in the third period.
Video: CBJ Recap: Jenner, Carlsson score in 4-2 loss
In a turnaround from much of the season, it was Columbus that found itself down after the first period as the Predators scored twice in the second half of the frame to go up 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Jenner was part of some notable plays early as he hit the post on the second shift of the game, then cleared a rebound out of the crease behind Merzlikins a few minutes later.
But the Predators started to grab momentum with a power play near the midway point of the frame and took advantage when Calle Jarnkrok scored with eight seconds left on the man advantage to make it 1-0 at 12:58. The Predators had a number of looks and even fanned on a shot before Ryan Ellis finally got it to the net, where Jarnkrok pulled the rebound out of traffic and flipped it over the glove of Merzlikins.
Nashville rode the momentum from there and doubled the lead with 3:11 left in the period. This time the goal came on the rush, as Luke Kunin won a race to the puck in the left corner and threw it toward the net, where Colton Sissons quickly put a shot under Merzlikins to make it 2-0.
The Blue Jackets battled back from there, though early in the second period with a pair of goals in the first six minutes. The first one came shorthanded with 3:46 gone off the clock, as captain Nick Foligno started a rush and passed it off to Scott Harrington, whose centering pass found Jenner at the back post for a tap past Pekka Rinne that made it 2-1.
Columbus then tied it shortly thereafter on a strong shift by the line featuring Oliver Bjorkstrand, Kevin Stenlund and Mikhail Grigorenko. After a long stretch in the offensive zone, the Blue Jackets finished the play when Bjorkstrand sent the puck across the crease to Carlsson, who was pinching in low on the left and slid a shot past Rinne to make it 2-2 at 5:28.
Merzlikins was the star of the period from there, including some 10-bell saves late in the period. He somehow ended with the puck rolling into his chest on a chance by Eeli Tolvanen, who tracked down his own rebound behind the net and threw the puck into the crease only to see Merzlikins swallow it up. Moments later, the CBJ goalie made a pair of saves at the doorstep, the latter a pad denial of Matt Duchene on a rebound that left the former Jackets forward to slam his stick against the glass in disbelief.
But his luck soon ran out amid a tough start to the third period that included two Nashville goals in the opening minute and an injury that chased Merzlikins from the game. Jarnkrok gave Nashville a 3-2 lead 16 seconds into the period when he intercepted a CBJ clearing attempt and quickly fired past Merzlikins blocker. Just 29 seconds later, at 0:45, it was 4-2, as Foligno tried to win a neutral zone draw back but Filip Forsberg jumped the play, skated it to the net and beat Merzlikins.
The CBJ goalie then was injured with the Preds on the power play, leaving 2:40 into the period. Merzlikins went to cover the puck but it had knocked away by Viktor Arvidsson, causing the CBJ goalie to fall awkwardly onto his left arm that was trying to put the glove on top of the puck.
Columbus had a chance shortly thereafter but Rinne got a bit lucky, as Jack Roslovic had Cam Atkinson alone in front of the net, but his centering pass went off the stick of Dante Fabbro and on net but somehow ended up swallowed up in the gear of the Nashville goalie. Nashville then prevented Columbus from getting much of an attack going from there, winning for just the third time in 10 games.
1. Tough start to third: Columbus was flattered by the 2-2 scoreline after two periods, but there was still a chance to stay in the game and earn a point or two. Instead, Nashville grabbed control of the contest in the first minute of the period, getting the goals from Jarnkrok and Forsberg to take control. On the first, Jarnkrok intercepted a pass by Vladislav Gavrikov and scored; on the second, Forsberg fought through the check of Andrew Peeke to get the goal. "The two goals are just free," head coach John Tortorella said. "As bad as we played for two periods and we have a goalie stand on his head like he did, to enter that third period (tied), and it's just an egregious turnover that causes the first one. Really, it was just a turnover. It wasn't like it was a forced turnover. And the second one, we just get spanked one-on-one. There's your two goals." And Columbus can't afford to give up such tallies the way things are going right now.
2. More defensive issues: But the reality is if you look at the numbers, those goals were coming, as Nashville well and truly earned the win. Columbus was outshot 45-23, while Nashville had a 78-38 edge in shot attempts in the game. The Predators also won 39 of 65 faceoffs -- 33 of 44 in the first two periods -- and had an edge of 3.21-1.08 in expected goals at 5-on-5 per Natural Stat Trick. The Blue Jackets were missing two top-four defensemen in Zach Werenski and David Savard, but the inability to get the puck out of their own zone has been an issue all year and continued again tonight. "Major concern 19 games in," Tortorella said simply, also referencing the team's lack of concentration when it comes to the little things in its defensive zone play. Michael Del Zotto offered the following explanation: "The more time you spend there, the more mistakes are going to happen. It's pretty simple. It's not that complicated. We're spending too much time there right now."
3. Forecheck missing: The saying that the best defense is a good offense is somewhat true, and the flip side of what's happening in the CBJ defensive zone is coming on the offensive end. The team simply isn't getting to its forecheck consistently during games, though it's a little bit of a chicken or the egg -- is the forecheck struggling because the team is spending too much time defending, or is the team spending too much time in its own zone because the forecheck is struggling? In that way, perhaps it's one in the same issue, but whatever it is, it has to get better and quickly. "It's not just the D zone," Del Zotto said. "I think our forecheck is the key to our game. When we're on our forecheck, we don't talk about our D zone because we're not in there. When we don't have that, we're sloppy through the neutral zone, we're not checking properly, we're allowing teams to enter with speed and possession. ... It's just concentration mistakes. To be quite honest, it's just some dumb mistakes all around. The inconsistency is unacceptable."
Harrington now has three points in five games this year (1-2-3). … Foligno earned the Jackets' sixth fighting major of the year when he dropped the gloves with Nashville's Mark Borowiecki in the second period. … Carlsson is the first CBJ player to notch his first NHL goal this season. … Atkinson's five-game goal streak came to an end. … Nashville scored first for just the sixth time in 17 games, while Columbus had tallied first in 14 of 18 games and outscored foes 22-10 in the first period coming into the game. … Columbus outscored the Predators 2-0 in the second period, leaving Nashville outscored by a 24-6 margin in the second period this year. … Columbus had been outscored 26-10 in the second period this year coming into the game. … The Predators snapped a six-game streak without a power play goal vs. Columbus.
Columbus made one change to the lineup, with Carlsson making his season debut in place of Savard (illness). He was scratched along with fellow blueliners Werenski (lower body) and Dean Kukan.
Columbus has two days off before facing Chicago in games Tuesday and Thursday night in Nationwide Arena. Both games will be at 7 p.m.