Call it a trap game, call it what you want.
The Blue Jackets just weren't sharp tonight, and they paid the price in a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who continued their push for the playoffs and picked up a huge win at Nationwide Arena.
Unlike the previous two games (wins over the Islanders and Devils), the Blue Jackets seemed to test the waters tonight and weren't physically engaged until some questionable hits by the Maple Leafs caught their attention. They were down 2-0 in the first period, rallied to tie the game 2-2 courtesy of goals from David Savard and Brandon Saad in the second period, but gave up a breakaway goal to William Nylander shortly thereafter that gave the momentum back to Toronto. The Blue Jackets never gained traction in the third period despite being handed a glorious opportunity to take control of the game.
Roman Polak rammed Oliver Bjorkstrand's head into the boards one minute in the third period, earning a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. The Blue Jackets, though, were dismal on the man advantage (which actually lasted nearly seven minutes because Toronto forgot to send a player to the penalty box to serve Polak's penalty). They registered a small handful of shots without any high-danger chances, and after a rather uneventful period, Nazem Kadri scored on a goal-mouth pass to put the Leafs ahead 4-2 with 4:14 to play. Nikita Zaitsev added the comfort goal, an empty netter, at 17:13 of the third period.
"We needed to do something there, and we didn't," coach John Tortorella said of the five-minute power play.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Blue Jackets, who remain in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 100 points (47-19-6). Toronto jumped over Boston into third place in the Atlantic Division with 83 points, earning five of six points against Chicago, Boston and Columbus.
Nick Foligno eventually returned to the game after colliding with the end boards in the first period. Bjorkstrand, after being boarded by Polak, left the game in the third period and did not return.
The Blue Jackets hop on the plane and are off to D.C. for a big game tomorrow night against the Capitals, who are two points ahead of them (102) for first place in the Metropolitan Division.