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Streak over, Blue Jackets know 'It's how game works'

After 16 straight wins, Columbus falls short of NHL record with shutout loss to Capitals

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Sometimes this is the way winning streaks end.

A deflection off a stick leads to a scramble in front and a goal. Another puck deflects in off a skate and, 12 minutes into a game Thursday, the Columbus Blue Jackets had to realize this was not going to be their night.

The Pittsburgh Penguins' 17-game winning streak of 1992-93 remains alone in the record book as the longest in NHL history. The Blue Jackets will have to settle for second on that list after their 16-game streak came to an end with a 5-0 loss to the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.

"Every good streak has to come to an end, obviously, but we definitely didn't want it to happen in this fashion," Columbus right wing Scott Hartnell said. "We wanted it to be close and for us have a chance to push it to 17, but it is what it is."

"Luck" was the first word out of coach John Tortorella's mouth when he was asked before the game what elements are needed to put together the kind of streak the Blue Jackets had. Second on Tortorella's list was "Tremendous goaltending."

The Blue Jackets didn't get either against the Capitals. Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled after giving up five goals on 23 shots, but the end wasn't all on him.

Columbus was as sloppy in the defensive zone as Bobrovsky was in controlling some of his rebounds. Daniel Winnik scored off that scramble, and John Carlson scored off his skate, and Washington led 2-0 11:32 into the game.

In addition, the Blue Jackets' top-ranked power play came up empty, managing one shot on goal on two chances in the first 24 minutes when a goal would have gotten them back in it. Including a failed 5-on-3 for 1:06 in the third period, they went 0-for-5.

Give the Capitals credit. They've been flying under the radar despite going 11-2-3 in their past 16 games and 24-10-5 for the season.

Video: Caps rout Blue Jackets to end 16-game winning streak

After running away with the Presidents' Trophy but falling short in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, they've lacked focus at times but have demonstrated an ability to elevate their game when facing a challenge like breaking the streak.

Tortorella predicted, "They're coming," and was proven correct. Five Capitals scored, and Braden Holtby rebounded from being pulled in a 6-5 overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday with a 29-save shutout.

"That game just kind of got away from us. But we had our chance there," Columbus forward Boone Jenner said. "A couple bounces or what not. But we're not too worried. It's how the game works."

The Blue Jackets have had the pedal to the floor since losing their first two games of the season. Before they ran into the Capitals, they hadn't lost since Nov. 26, 2-1 in a shootout to the Florida Panthers, and had a point in 18 consecutive games (17-0-1).

At 27-6-4, the Blue Jackets lead the NHL with 58 points, but the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who are 12-1-2 in their past 15 games (with the only regulation loss to Columbus), and the New York Rangers are three points back in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals are five points behind as the Eastern Conference's first wild card.

Video: Zach Werenski on NHL Tonight

So, despite the historic run, the Blue Jackets have plenty of work to do in their 45 remaining games, beginning against the Rangers at Nationwide Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, MSG 2, NHL.TV).

"We have so much hockey to be played," Tortorella said. "I still don't know who we are. We have got to keep on playing and we're going to start playing within our division, probably the toughest division in hockey right now, playing a number of games there. We have a long ways to go here to really define who we are.

"But I'm pleased the way they have handled especially the past week where it really got focused. It's a good experience for our team."

The Blue Jackets hope to carry the lessons they learned during the streak with them as they try to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013-14 and third time in history.

"We're building that culture and that identity that we talked about, but it's how we go about our business and how we play the game," Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. "That was our bread and butter for the whole streak here the past 16 games. We just played a consistent, solid game, and it just got away from us [Thursday]."

Tortorella hadn't talked a lot about breaking the Penguins' record but admitted before the game, "We're here. I want us to get it."

He then quickly added, "It's not the end of the world if we don't."

So when it was over, Tortorella stopped by the locker room to address the players, which is not his usual practice. They could recall one other time he did it this season, when he thanked them after his 500th NHL win, against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Dec. 18.

This time, Tortorella wanted to be sure they knew he appreciated what they accomplished.

"That is one hell of a run by a hockey team and they should feel really good about it," Tortorella said. "I'm proud of the team. We're a good hockey team. They'll get a day off tomorrow and we'll get whacking at it again against New York the next day."

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