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Blue Jackets miss prime opportunity in Game 1 against Bruins

Blow lead late in third period, chance to win while shaking off rust

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

BOSTON -- If what happened in Game 1 really is just a good lesson learned for the Columbus Blue Jackets, as they said it was, then maybe their optimism will help them as they forge on in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

But if it is a sign of things to come, of inconsistencies that are daring to creep into their game, then the 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday will be one the Blue Jackets will struggle to get over for a long time.

They had a 2-1 lead with less than five minutes left in the third period, a chance to win a game when they played well mostly in spurts and weren't close to their best, and they blew it.

 

[WATCH: Blue Jackets vs. Bruins Game 1 highlights | Complete series coverage]

 

Bruins forward Charlie Coyle scored at 15:25 of the third period tie it 2-2 and again at 5:15 of overtime.

"That's the breaks of playoff hockey," Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. "You've got to be as sharp as possible at all times. It's a good lesson for us."

The Blue Jackets felt good about a lot of what happened in Game 1, with good reason.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 saves, continuing his strong play from a four-game sweep against the Tampa Bay Lightning. 
In the first period, when every Columbus skater around him looked rusty, no doubt a result of the Blue Jackets having eight days between series, Bobrovsky was sharp with 13 saves. He was beaten only by a low, far-side shot from the right face-off circle by Noel Acciari for a shorthanded goal at 10:34.

"I felt comfortable, I felt good," Bobrovsky said. "In the first period I thought that my teammates needed me and I was there for them."

Video: CBJ@BOS, Gm1: Dubinsky, Dubois score 13 seconds apart

The Blue Jackets liked how they found their game late in the first period and carried it into the second, when they started to dictate play with their physicality, being hard on the puck, winning 50-50 battles, all staples of their game, reasons they blew away the 62-win Lightning.

It got better in the third period when they scored two goals in 13 seconds to take a 2-1 lead. Brandon Dubinsky scored on a double deflection at 7:39, and Pierre-Luc Dubois scored on a deflection at 7:52.

Suddenly it looked like Columbus was going to survive the slow first period and find a way to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

"We were in the driver's seat," defenseman Seth Jones said.

But then Jones lost Coyle in coverage low in the defensive zone, and Marcus Johansson's seam pass zipped past Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski and landed on Coyle's tape for a one-timer from the left circle that made it 2-2. 

Bobrovsky said he thought Coyle was covered. Jones said he should have been and blamed himself.

"It's a 2-on-2, [Werenski] has his guy and I need my guy," Jones said. "It's a tight coverage and it's a play that I make all the time defensively. I know the whole game isn't entirely on that goal, but we were in the driver's seat there up 2-1."

In overtime, Columbus was caught with bad gaps in the defensive zone, slow and on its heels, unable to stop Coyle from a game-winning tap-in from the right side after he went around Werenski to get a pass from Johansson.

Video: Coyle scores twice, leads Bruins to OT win in Game 1

The tying and winning goals were examples of bigger issues coach John Tortorella felt the Blue Jackets had.

"I just think at times we need to be more consistent as far as being decisive in our checking," he said. "I think we had some struggles with that. … Not just down low, just a number of different situations where we need to just make the decision and go with it and not get caught in between."

There were also discipline issues that they didn't have against the Lightning. The Blue Jackets had to kill four penalties, including two they committed in the offensive zone. They were shorthanded six times in four games against Tampa Bay.

"We can't keep on giving those type of opportunities," Tortorella said. "We can't sit in the box. It was a key for us early in the playoffs, in the first round. With their power play, we've just got to be more disciplined."

The Blue Jackets had the built-in excuse of being off for more than a week, but they can't have another slow and rusty first period in Game 2 here Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). They were lucky to be down a goal. 

"That's the thing, I think we look at the game as a whole and we didn't play well for probably the first 20 and it probably cost us the game," Foligno said. "If they don't get that lead, we're winning. That's where we have to get better at. 

"Good lesson for us."

That's all it can be, because in the big picture the Blue Jackets were less than five minutes from being up 1-0 in the series, from putting pressure on the Bruins. 

If it goes south from here, they'll look back on this missed opportunity as the turning point. And they'll be right.

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