On two separate occasions tonight, the Blue Jackets absolutely could not afford a slow start.
The first instance was the actual start of the game, and it was not kind to the visitors, who were looking for a strong start and some redemption after fading fast in Tuesday’s loss to Los Angeles.
Here’s how it unfolded (and it got out of hand quickly): the Jets got the game’s first goal only 27 seconds into the game. They got the second one less than two minutes later, and a third one a few minutes after that, creating quite the hill to climb before most folks had taken their seat at MTS Centre.
In short, it was straight out of a nightmare for the Blue Jackets and coach John Tortorella, who said this morning that he wasn’t sure what to expect from his team tonight.
The goals for Winnipeg weren’t born from sloppiness for blatant mistakes by the Blue Jackets but more so by some unfortunate bounces and breaks, but they capitalized and put a stranglehold on the game early.
Despite the poor start, they had every opportunity to get back in the game before dropping a 6-4 decision, their second straight setback after a road win last weekend in Philadelphia. It was closer than it perhaps should have been, but the game’s result was largely decided in the first period.
“There were times when we weren’t on our game, but we battled right to the end and fell a little bit short,” said center Ryan Johansen. “In the back of our mind, we tried to keep throwing pucks (at the net), scratch and claw…it’s too bad we couldn’t tie it up and send to overtime.”
The second instance was the start of the third period. Columbus was down by just a goal, 3-2, with 20 minutes to go and the final stanza unfolded in a less-than-desirable manner.
Drew Stafford (4:03) and Mathieu Perreault (7:36) scored two huge goals for the Jets to effectively put the game away.
As Tortorella would say -- and has said before -- there are no moral victories in this game, but the Blue Jackets made a decision in the third period to respond to those goals, try and keep the train on the tracks, and push their way back into it.
Alexander Wennberg, who had a solid game with three assists, made two plays to set up Cam Atkinson down the stretch, drawing the Blue Jackets within striking distance. The first was a great read to intercept a pass below the goal line and find Atkinson in front, popping a quick shot past Hellebuyck.
The second was a puck thrown into traffic by Wennberg and Atkinson finished it off with 1:44 to play, inspiring some hope on the visitors’ side before the Jets put it away with a late empty-net goal.
From the coach’s perspective, the pushes and responses are rather moot when there wasn’t enough on the whole to produce a better result.
“We lost the game. We can break it down all you want as far as a push here and a push there, but we didn’t play well enough to win,” Tortorella said. “We had a push at the end but we didn’t play well enough in all areas. We need more in the middle part of that game, and that’s an area of our game we need to get better at.
“We didn’t have enough plays made by guys offensively. Everybody needs to be involved in the winning and everybody needs to be involved in the losing.”