As the Columbus Blue Jackets returned home from a five game road trip, Saturday night’s matchup with the New Jersey Devils had “trap game” written all over it. After earning three of four points against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, beating the Devils, who were last place in the Metropolitan Division, would require the same level of focus the Jackets had against the other two.
“It’s confidence, but it’s a fine line.”
That’s how Matt Calvert described how the Columbus Blue Jackets came out Saturday night, whether they perhaps overlooked the New Jersey Devils. While there was an obvious mismatch in the standings, the CBJ were seemingly on the wrong side of that “fine line” all night.
The Devils came out strong to start the game. At the 3:29 mark of the first period, Devils winger Taylor Hall got around Zach Werenski, who was playing without a stick, and beat Sergei Bobrovsky to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The Jackets didn’t look very good in the first period at even strength, and their power play unit didn’t look any better. They struggled to get anything going as they registered only one shot in two opportunities on the man advantage.
Things didn’t get better in the second period. Less than two minutes in, New Jersey center Jacob Josefson deflected a shot past Bobrovsky to extend the lead to two. The Devils carried play throughout much of the second, tallying 16 shots on goal to the Jackets’ eight. They added another goal with 1:02 remaining as Travis Zajac scored on a Devils power play.
Down 3-0, the CBJ appeared to score early in the third period, but the goal was waived off after review due to goaltender interference. As boos rained down on the officials much of the rest of the game, the Jackets kept trying to get on the board. Twenty seconds after a Boone Jenner tripping penalty, Matt Calvert was finally able to beat Devils goalie Cory Schneider with a shorthanded goal. William Karlsson made a good play to steal the puck along the boards behind the net in the offensive zone and found Calvert all alone in front of the net. With 8:25 remaining in the third period, it was 3-1 Devils.
As the minutes ticked by, any momentum gained by Jackets after the goal slowly dwindled. Just seconds after CBJ coach John Tortorella pulled Bobrovsky for the extra attacker, Taylor Hall broke free to cash in on the empty net with 3:12 left in the game. The Devils added another one for good measure with 29 seconds left to make it 5-1.
After the game, a disappointed Nick Foligno pointed out one of the key factors missing from the team’s play of late, saying they were:
Not consistent enough and…at this time of the year you have to find a way to do that.
In his post game press conference, John Tortorella was asked if the loss was due more to the game being the second of a back-to-back, or if it was the high emotions of the game Friday night in Pittsburgh. Tortorella responded:
You play the Rangers, you play Pitt, you got three out of four points, you come back and tie a game up in Pitt…I’m sure there’s a little bit of an emotional let down…The tank better not be empty because it’s a back to back, I mean, that’s just part of the schedule of the league.
The coach seemed confident in the simplicity of the path forward, saying the team needs to:
Just try to find some consistency within our game, and 60 minutes, and I think everything will fall into place. So we’re just going to go to work and try to get better.
The New Jersey Devils crept above .500 as they moved to 22-21-10 with the victory over the Jackets. Since the end of December, they’re 8-0-1 on the road.
The Columbus Blue Jackets (33-13-5) will attempt to regroup after this one. Next on the schedule for the CBJ are the Detroit Red Wings. They’ll meet at Joe Louis Arena (for the last time ever) on Tuesday night.