The Blue Jackets’ winless streak has reached nine games (0-8-1), tying a franchise record that they will try to snap on Friday in Philadelphia. When a streak goes on this long, the post game sound bytes can sound pretty familiar from one night to the next.
BLUE JACKETS 2 | CAPITALS 4
With the exception of a handful of games where they believed they had been outworked, the Blue Jackets have often lamented a turning-point play, a bad bounce or bad read late in the game that went against them and ultimately sealed a loss.
That bounce seemed to go the Jackets’ way on Tuesday night in Washington, but their troubling trend of poor first periods sealed their fate before they could take advantage.
James Wisniewski swatted a puck out of the air in the Columbus crease late in the second period, a ‘remember that save’ moment, with the Jackets shorthanded and trailing by two goals.
Minutes later, in the final minute of the period, David Savard’s wrister popped over the shoulder of Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and lay behind him. With Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson charging the crease, Holtby knocked the puck in himself.
Jenner was very strong, with two assists in the game and a physical force all night.
Finally, a break and a bounce going the Jackets’ way. It sparked one of their better periods of the last 10 games. Scott Hartnell opened the third with a breakaway that rang off the crossbar. The Jackets swarmed the Washington end, outshooting them 11-6 and holding a 26-11 edge in shot attempts.
Unfortunately for the Jackets, it was too little too late after a first period that again put Columbus in a two-goal hole they couldn’t overcome.
“I don’t know if you call it a slow start or just bad luck again,” said Wisniewski about Marcus Johansson’s first goal that opened the scoring. “The first goal hit Prout’s skate then my skate, then to their guy on the back door and in.”
That may have been another in a line of bad bounces, but the two-man disadvantage that led to Alex Ovechkin’s first goal was not a bad bounce. Brian Gibbons’ interference penalty followed shortly by a Fedor Tyutin tripping call put the Capitals' second-ranked power play on the ice early, which is not what the Jackets wanted to do.
“We talked about it ahead of time,” said Todd Richards. “This is a team where you can’t take penalties. You put a team on a 5-on-3 for significant time with talented players, they’re going to make you pay.”
The penalty kill actually performed quite well, but a 5-on-3 was too much to silence, and time shorthanded doesn't help a struggling team get off to the right start.
The Blue Jackets were outshot 26-15 through the first two periods, falling behind by multiple goals for the seventh time in this streak. Whether they suffered bad bounces or not, penalty trouble combined with limited offensive zone possession makes it difficult to create those bounces of your own.
"I don’t think it’s lack of effort. I think it’s some kind of a weird funk. But I don’t know,” said Wisniewski.
The Blue Jackets can come away with more positives tonight with a strong effort late in the game, and although some bounces went against them, they had their share of puck luck tonight too. When they forced the issue in the Washington end, their opportunities were there.
“We’ve got to make our own puck luck, our own fortuitous bounces. We did that tonight by working and competing,” said Richards.
Ryan Johansen agreed: "We just need to keep working for those bounces. They’re not going to come if you’re not working.”