It was a game of missed chances Monday in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament as the Blue Jackets fell in the final game of round robin play 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues.
"We had two 3-on-1s in the first period, and a couple 2-on-1s that hopefully we could have capitalized on but we didn't get shots off," head coach John Madden said. "The second period, there were too many penalties. (The Blues) were able to capitalize. We didn't seem to have everything going for us today and we missed a lot of opportunities."
Upon the game's start, for the first time this tournament, the Blue Jackets did not score first. St. Louis' Adam Musil beat Matiss Kivlenieks with a snipe from the high slot 8:17 into the game to make it 1-0 Blues.
But the Jackets' top line struck back. 1:14 later, Calvin Thurkauf's shot bounced off goaltender, Stephen Dhillon's mask and directly to Pierre-Luc Dubois who was positioned in the left circle. He fired on target to score his third goal of the tournament and tie the game 1-1.
The second period was chippy and choppy. Nine penalties were called, including five on the Blue Jackets. Only St. Louis capitalized and it came on their third power play attempt. The Blues regained the lead by a score of 2-1 when Jake Walman hammered one in from above the right circle at 8:34.
The third period was a calmer affair. Paul Bittner was able to capitalize on the first of two power play chances the Jackets got when he knocked in the puck on a bang bang play that came from a cross-crease pass by Thurkauf.
The game was tied 2-2, but the Blues reclaimed the lead when, 15:32 into the final frame, Tage Thompson came down the left side and fired a laser that beat Matiss Kivlenieks clean to put the score at 3-2, a tally that would withstand a final flurry of attempts by the Jackets.
Matiss Kivlenieks stopped 20 of the 23 shots he faced.
"We let guys walk into the slot and rip shots," Madden said. "If (Kivlenieks) could see it, he stopped it. He controlled his rebounds. I don't fault him on any of those goals."
There were a few silver linings to Monday's game.
First, Calvin Thurkauf had the primary assist on both goals in the game making him the points leader on the Jackets roster (0-6-6) through three games. Additionally, as promised by Madden, the 20-year-old played the third period at center.
Thurkauf played down the middle of the ice last season with the Kelowna Rockets where he had 70 points (33-37-70) in 60 games and was named team MVP.
Based on today's performance, center may be the position the young Swiss plays tomorrow as well.
"He's been our best player in the tournament by far," Madden said. "It's not just how many points he's getting, it's his 200-foot game. He pays attention to the little details of the game and he's a really intelligent hockey player.
"When he's in a position that allows him to make a skill play he'll make it, when he has to make a smart play he'll make it. He'll do whatever it takes. He's got a bunch of things in his repertoire. At center he was around the puck more, and he was able to be more involved."
The other good news? The Jackets have already secured a spot in Tuesday's Championship game at 7 p.m. where they will play the winner of the Gordie Howe Division. The Jackets will be playing for their third title in four years and a victory would give them sole ownership of most titles overall. They are currently tied with St. Louis (4).