COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Momentum is critical heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the Columbus Blue Jackets are struggling to find some as the regular season winds down.
The Blue Jackets, who will face Pittsburgh in the opening round of the postseason next week, dropped their fifth straight game and gave away home-ice advantage in the first-round series with a 5-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.
“We’ll keep on banging away here this week and see if we can get going on all cylinders by the time we start the playoffs,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “No time to get down.”
Jacob Trouba scored twice and Eric Comrie had 35 saves in his NHL debut as the Jets held off a late Columbus rally to win their sixth straight. Bryan Little had a goal and three assists, and Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault also scored.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game out there,” Little said. “There definitely were times in the game we didn’t play very well and kind of hung our goalie out to dry, and he made some big saves for us.”
Brandon Saad had two goals, Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner scored, and Joonas Korpisalo had 27 saves for the Blue Jackets. A bright spot for Columbus was more goal production from its forwards — something that has been sorely lacking lately.
But the Blue Jackets were again up and down, and can’t seem to grab the momentum in a game and keep it. They finish the season with a back-to-back on the road Saturday and Sunday and hope to find the mojo that helped them win a franchise-record 16 straight games earlier this season.
“I think we’re all a little bit antsy,” Saad said. “You can’t call these games meaningless, but for us it’s just making sure we’re sharp going into the real fun. We’re all looking forward to next week for sure.”
Columbus already had a series of good opportunities 6:58 into the game when Foligno picked up the puck off the boards, evaded defender Josh Morrissey and went high with a wrist shot for his 26th goal of the season.
Trouba tied it 1-1 with a one-timer later in the period, near the end of a 4-minute Jets power play. Scheifele got his 32nd of the season 1 1/2 minutes later when he found himself uncovered in front of the cage and scored from 12 feet out to make it 2-1 at the first intermission.
Perreault put the Jets up 3-1 when he shook off defender Seth Jones and beat Korpisalo 3:49 into the second period.
Saad injected some energy back into the building when he got a breakaway and beat Comrie 7:12 into the second. Saad struck again later in the period, poking in a rebound to tie it up.
Trouba found an opening with a slap shot from just below the blue line on a power play just over four minutes into the third period, and Bryan Little got the fifth on a breakaway.
Jenner closed it to 5-4 with six minutes left when he tapped in a terrific pass from Scott Hartnell.
NOTES: Winnipeg has won six of its last eight games against Columbus. … Blue Jackets C Lukas Sedlak missed his third game and D Zach Werenski missed his second due to injuries. Matt Calvert returned after being a healthy scratch against Pittsburgh on Tuesday for Sonny Milano, who was returned to Cleveland of the AHL. … Winnipeg C Jack Roslovic, who grew up in Columbus and played at Miami University near Cincinnati, also made his NHL debut. … Scheifele has a point in 18 of his last 23 games. … Winnipeg F Blake Wheeler, who had an assist on Scheifele’s goal, has a seven-game point streak.
Jets: At Nashville on Saturday to close the season.
Blue Jackets: At Philadelphia on Saturday before finishing the regular season Sunday at Toronto.