Sometimes, that's the difference between coming home with points and coming home empty. The Blue Jackets, despite a valiant effort, are coming home empty after a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
Artemi Panarin, the league's top rookie last season, put Chicago on the board early, beating Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovski high glove side on a power play just 32 seconds into the game.
The goal was set up when Brandon Dubinsky was whistled for cross checking 28 seconds in. Sloppy draw work on the ensuing faceoff in the Blue Jackets' zone led to Panarin sliding up in the slot all alone for an easy shot.
Thirty seconds later, the Blackhawks sprung Panarin on a breakaway, but Bobrovsky snuffed it out. Ninety seconds in and the rink felt tilted.
The Blue Jackets would soon get their legs under them and battled Chicago for the rest of the period.
Boone Jenner and Chicago's Ryan Hartman were whistled for matching minors – Jenner for roughing and Hartman for embellishment – at 16:21 of the first period, leading to four-on-four action.
Less than a minute later, captain Nick Foligno got the equalizer for Columbus, beating Blackhawk goalie Corey Crawford through the wickets off a pass from Sam Gagner, camped out behind the net. It was the 25th of the season for Foligno and the 29th assist of the season for Gagner, who has 11 points in his last 15 games.
The game would stay tied for all of 22 seconds as the Hawks caught Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones pinching, leading to a two-on-one that Marian Hossa buried on a nifty deke of Bobrovski to put Chicago back up, 2-1.
“They get a lot of scoring chances – they make them out of nothing,” Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, reflecting on the goal. “Jones is trying to make a difference. Just a little turnover in their zone and that's their strength: turnovers and they're gone.”
Despite the rough start and the first intermission deficit, the Blue Jackets were firmly in this one, having outshot the Blackhawks 11-9 in the first period.
The second period was fast, fluid and ended quickly as the whistles went silent and both teams enjoyed several great scoring chances. Forty-five seconds in, Boone Jenner came close to tying things up, but Crawford stopped his shot on a shorthanded two-on-one.
The Blue Jackets came close to evening things up midway through the period when Chicago's Jordin Tootoo was called for high-sticking, but Columbus couldn't convert on the power play, despite great movement.
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The second period ended scoreless, with the teams knotted at eight shots each for the middle session.
The Blue Jackets dominated the third period, outshooting the Blackhawks 14-7 but were unable to get anything past Crawford.
Midway through the period, Columbus earned a power play when Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson was whistled for delaying the game after he flipped a puck over the glass from deep within his own zone. The Blue Jackets forced the action on the advantage, and nearly got the equalizer when Jenner fired a shot from the low slot, but again, Crawford was game.
The Blue Jackets would go 0 of 4 on the power play.
With 90 seconds remaining, Sergei Bobrovsky left the net, but the Blackhawks were able to put away an empty-netter, Panarin scoring his second of the night for the final 3-1 margin.
The Blue Jackets did everything but put the puck in the net against Chicago, outshooting the Blackhawks 33-24, outhitting them 32-12, forced 10 giveaways and won 67% of the draws on the night.
“I thought we played a good hockey game,” Tortorella said following the game. “I thought we played a hard game, a much better game than we played last night. We don't get the result, but as I've told you before, this time of the year, I just want us trying to play the right way. We played the right way tonight. Both goalies were good. Crawford was good, Bob was good. They scored a couple. We scored one.”
No End to Power Outage
The Blue Jackets went 0 for 4 on the power play at Chicago, continuing to struggle, but John Tortorella sees signs of life.
“We won some battles, won some faceoffs, which is very important,” Tortorella said. “We had some chances. Sam had a great chance on a deflection. I think one of the weak parts of our game tonight is that we missed the net a lot. I think we can still put more pucks on the net and work for rebounds.”
Columbus is 0 for 17 on the man advantage in their last nine games and have just six power play goals since Jan. 24, a span stretching 31 games.
The Blue Jackets last great chance to make a play on the President's Cup comes Sunday when they welcome the league-leading Washington Capitals to town (6 p.m., FSOH).
This will be the fifth and final meeting between the Jackets and Caps. Columbus took the first two, played five days apart in mid-November. Washington has won the last two, including a 2-1 shootout win on March 23 and a 5-0 win in early January that broke the Blue Jackets' 16-game winning-streak.