Response goals negate Jackets momentum in 4-3 loss to Kings
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets have looked for a lot of answers this season, but now the challenge lies in preventing their opponents from finding answers to scoring immediately after a Columbus goal.
In a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night, the home team fell victim to two more goals scored by their opponents within two minutes or less after a Jackets goal. The CBJ have scored 21 goals since the All-Star break and seven of them, including two of the Kings points, came inside the two-minute post-Jackets-goal-time boundary.
"It's a lack of focus after a goal," forward Ryan Johansen said. "Whether you think it's going to get easier now that you scored or something, we've been terrible in that area."
In acknowledging that the Kings gave the Jackets very little opportunity to make plays, head coach Todd Richards called the response goals "self-inflicted wounds." Regaining focus after a goal is something he says the players are aware of and have been talking about on the bench.
"It's going out and understanding that it's a big shift and just simplifying," Richards said. "Sometime we make it harder on ourselves, whether we turn it over or make a poor decision or whatever it is, it ends up coming back and biting us."
Jackets goaltender Curtis McElhinney said the rebound goals also prevented the home team from capitalizing on any momentum to be gained off their own goals.
"When you score a goal you want to take advantage of it," McElhinney said. "You want to keep things rolling and to have them come right back and answer the call a couple times -- it's difficult.
"I think it's just awareness on our part and making some smart plays and getting some pucks out and knowing where guys are on the ice."
One thing that isn't holding back the Jackets in their quest for more wins is goaltending. When starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky went down with a groin injury right before the All-Star break, responsibility in net fell to McElhinney, and Richards has been pleased with his performance in the starting role.
"I thought he was very good -- he gave us a chance," Richards said.
McElhinney let in four goals off 44 shots, giving him a .909 save percentage, which was better than opposing goaltender Jonathan Quick, who posted an .885 save percentage off only 26 shots.
There were a few bright spots despite the ultimate outcome. Forward Scott Hartnell marked his 1,000 NHL game. He had a large number of family in friends in town and scored the second goal of the night off a pass from Johansen.
"That's really cool," Johansen. "Every day you don't get a chance to play with guys that have been around the league that long and have had such a great career. Even just to be out there with him is pretty special and to set him up for a goal is cool."
The Jackets also rallied late in the third with a significant push that saw them pull McElhinney and notch a third goal to bring the score within one.
But it's going to take a lot more than a late push to secure more tallies in the win column. The Jackets are 18-7-1 when scoring the first goal -- as they did against the Kings -- but they are 0-20-0 when trailing after two periods. Finding ways to stop opponents' response goals is the next challenge that lies ahead for the boys in union blue.
The team has a few days to see if they can figure it out, the Jackets next face the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, Feb. 13 at Nationwide Arena. The team will celebrate Hartnell's 1000 game milestone prior to puck drop.
Follow Alison on twitter at @AlisonL