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The 5th Line Report: Week 1

by Martin Poston / Columbus Blue Jackets

Hockey is a fast game, and a lot can happen in a few short minutes.

The Columbus Blue Jackets received a harsh reminder of that fact in a season-opening, home-and-home series against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers’ defense was absolutely suffocating, which left the Jackets with little margin for error in a very tight game. It became clear that it was going to take some puck luck, an odd-man rush or some spectacular play to get the Jackets back into the game after Mats Zuccarello put the Rangers up 1-0 in the final minute of the first period.

Cam Atkinson delivered on that need midway through the second, taking a long pass from a falling Brandon Dubinsky to score a highlight-reel goal.

The teams continued to play tight hockey, and overtime was looking like a definite possibility, until Brandon Saad broke the tie with 3:50 remaining.

Then came the painful reminder. The celebration from the Saad goal had barely subsided, when the Jackets again met the nemesis that plagued them on many occasions last year: The quick answer goal.

Rangers’ rookie Oscar Lindberg tied up the game just 1:14 after Saad's goal, and then Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello added on two more in just 1:17, to cap a 4-2 win that saw the last four goals scored in the last four minutes after a 1-1 deadlock.

To make matters worse, it didn't take long for the Jackets to have a casualty on the injury front. A hit by the Rangers' Chris Kreider on Alexander Wennberg has the Jackets’ forward out indefinitely with a concussion.

The defensive breakdowns continued to be costly for Columbus the next night in New York, as Lindberg quickly put the Rangers up 2-0 on a pair of goals less than four minutes apart. Dominic Moore made it 3-0 just 36 seconds later at the 5:48 mark.

The Jackets would spot New York two more goals before Ryan Johansen got a backhander past Lundqvist off a pass out of the corner from Fedor Tyutin to deny Lundqvist the shutout. Boone Jenner closed out the scoring with 5:52 left.

The Blue Jackets’ task does not get any easier, with their first six games taking place a in a span of nine days. The Columbus team has never opened a season at such a pace.

Leading off this busy week is this afternoon's matinee against the Buffalo Sabres, who also endured a pair of tough losses to open their season.

Additionally, the Sabres lost their goaltender Robin Lehner for at least six weeks. This will also be the first look at Jack Eichel, the No.2 overall 2015 NHL Draft pick, which most Jackets fans will have, so this should be an interesting matchup to watch.

The rest of the week will see home games against the Ottawa Senators (2-1-0) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (0-2-1), and a Friday night road game in Chicago's United Center against the defending Stanley Cup Champions (2-1-0).

Weekends like this last one are why it's important to remember that it is still an 82-game hockey season.

A short memory will serve the Jackets well for this week's stretch. The Jackets need to learn from their mistakes, and quickly. The top priority has to be puck handling. The crisp, tape-to-tape passing that fans saw during the preseason was noticeably lacking this weekend, and the Jackets paid dearly.

This team knows what it needs to fix. That is the good news. Making those fixes, and creating opportunities are crucial for the week ahead.

If you’re off work today, enjoy the game and we’ll see you on Wednesday at Nationwide Arena at 7 p.m., 5th Line.

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