Last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets visited the Los Angeles Kings on the second leg of their California road trip. The Blue Jackets were coming into the game on the heels of a 4-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks. The Jackets, despite getting statistically caved in at even strength, took advantage of their opportunities that were few and far between while capitalizing on San Jose’s mistakes. Sergei Bobrovsky also played what is easily best game of the season in the win - he saved 38 of 39 shots to beat the Pacific Division leaders. That win, while great in the standings, is not sustainable over the course of the season. Last night presented a different challenge - could the Blue Jackets build on successes and take it to the last place team in the Pacific Division?
The Los Angeles Kings, coming into the game, had been terrible on the season. They were last in their division, dead last in the league in goals for, and 26th in the league in goals against per game. On paper, the Jackets were the better team. However, they have struggled against weak competition this season - the Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes games of the last two weeks illustrated that point. This team was in no position to assume anything about the game going into it.
In player notes, Jonathan Quick missed the game for the Los Angeles Kings after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus. For the Blue Jackets - Markus Hannikainen and Scott Harrrington remained in the lineup, and Sergei Bobrovsky earned a second straight start in the net. Brandon Dubinsky returned to the lineup after his injury. Lukas Sedlak left the lineup and was scratched, and Sonny Milano was assigned to the Cleveland Monsters. #FreeSonny
Here’s what happened.
First Period - We Won’t Rock You
Early in the first period, the Blue Jackets earned a power play, taking a man advantage as Jeff Carter (boo) sat for hooking with just 48 seconds gone. The Blue Jackets power play, which saw Nick Foligno replaced by Pierre-Luc Dubois on the first unit, continued to struggle. The team generated one shot on goal with their first man advantage.
The Los Angeles Kings had a golden scoring chance against a sprawling Sergei Bobrovsky with 15:45 to go in the first period but Kyle Clifford pushed his shot wide. With 5:45 gone (and each team having one shot on net), Ryan Murray took a holding penalty. Cam Atkinson failed on a shorthanded chance and Jeff Carter missed a shot on the ensuing rush. The Jackets killed the penalty, allowing no shots on goal.
Some end to end action saw Bobrovsky deny Trevor Lewis on a spinning shot with 10:29 to go in the first period. Off the ensuing face-off, Tyler Toffoli was denied by the shoulder of Bobrovsky. On a delayed penalty call, the Kings were able to capitalize as Alex Iafallo scored through Sergei Bobrovsky’s legs (a save he should have made) to make it 1-0.
Kings goal (1-0): Iafallo from Brown and Carter, 12:03
On replay, it went off Seth Jones’ skate and in the near post, just beating Sergei Bobrovsky. An unfortunate ricochet meant that yet again the Jackets trailed early. The CBJ have now allowed the first goal in 9 of their 13 games this season, per Aaron Portzline.
Minutes later, Nick Foligno fought Dion Phaneuf .... for some reason. Cool. I’m sure the Kings will trade losing a garbage defenseman for technically the second line winger every time.
Wennberg shot the puck with 4:50 to go in the first period. Just noting unicorn appearances.
After the goal, the LA Kings dominated the end of the period until Jake Muzzin took a slashing penalty with 1:34 to go in the first. After the usual drop pass, Kopitar hit Panarin (expecting the pass, he bypassed Jones to truck Panarin) and wasted 20 seconds. Once entering the zone, the Kings were able to predict the power play perfectly and cleared the zone easily. The period ended with three shots on goal from Columbus.
End 1 - Columbus 0 (3) - LA 1 (8)
Second Period - Under Pressure
The Kings killed the penalty to open the second, allowing zero shots. Great momentum builder for the Jackets. To add insult to ineptitude, Oliver Bjorkstrand took a hooking penalty at 0:46 to gift the Kings a man advantage. The Jackets had a shorthanded attempt by Josh Anderson followed by another by Nick Foligno as they were able to kill the penalty, allowing no shots on net.
After some solid possession by the Jackets, the Kings were able to clear the zone and nearly capitalize on a Kopitar backhand. Markus Hannikainen had a solid shift, which is great since it was just his third in nearly thirty minutes of game time - I’m sure he was fresh for it.
After a face-off, Ryan Murray saw a shot trickle loose in the blue paint. On a rush, Bobrovsky attempted to play a puck and nearly Fleury’d it before Zach Werenski saved his bacon with a backhand clearance off the goal line. The Jackets earned a power play where they were 0-14, a streak dating 4+ games. After a couple chances, Josh Anderson sat for interference, nullifying 1:11 of power play time with 8:43 gone in the second.
On the ensuing Kings power play, the absolutely crap-tactic Jackets special teams bit them again as Ilya Kovulchuk found Jeff Carter on a cross-ice pass through the slot and Carter buried it. That was absolutely lazy work from the Jackets to let that pass go through.
Kings goal (2-0): Carter from Kovalchuk and Doughty, 10:10
The Blue Jackets tried to push back after the second goal, but LA’s defense was too solid, forcing the Jackets into bad chances that allowed the Kings goaltender to face up to shooters.
With some end to end action to close the period, the Jackets trailed 2-0 without a true scoring chance or forcing Campbell to make a truly great save. The Kings did miss a golden scoring chance with a wide open net. The Jackets just weren’t good, but what else is new, since when do they play two good games in a row.
If anyone cares, shots favored LA 16-15. Honestly felt worse.
Third Period - Hammer to Fall
Zach Werenski scorned to make it 2-1 on a great feed from Boone Jenner who found a streaking Werenski through the center of the ice to cut the deficit. If Columbus was going to make a game out of it, they had to have that goal.
Columbus goal (1-2): Werenski from Jenner and Anderson, 0:29
Dustin Brown deflected a shot off the goal post with 18:29 gone in response to the Werenski goal. David Savard took a delay of game penalty with 17:16 to go in the third period. The Kings nearly scored after Kovalchuk was able to feather another pass clean across the slot with the man advantage thanks to lazy sticks. The Jackets, despite allowing some prime chances, managed to kill the penalty.
At 7:31, Kovalchuk took a goaltender interference penalty. The Jackets, 0-3 on the power play with 1 shot, had a chance to tie it. Instead, the Kings had a 2 on 1 as Kopitar found a rebound and buried it to give the Kings a shorthanded goal that allowed them to extend to lead to 3-1.
Kings goal (3-1): Kopitar from Brown, 7:46
While still down a man, the Kings earned a penalty shot after Dustin Brown skated past Ryan Murray and Murray was forced to hook him. Brown buried it after a deke.
Kings goal (4-1): Brown, unassisted, 8:43
The Jackets didn’t score on the power play, in case any fan was hopeful.
Two shots on goal on four power plays. Two shorthanded goals allowed. Thus ends this recap. The coaching staff doesn’t care about fixing these issues, why should I care about covering them.
Final Thoughts - We Aren’t the Champions
Any fan who stayed up through the end of this awful game deserves free beer in Nationwide Arena next time they attend.
They gave up a short handed penalty shot. What an absolute disgrace.
When can we demand answers from the coaching staff for the absolutely disgraceful special teams? Or is the media still too scared to ask important questions? Torts and Larsen need to be forced to answer for and be held accountable for the utter disgrace they continue to ice night after night and somehow think juggling personnel will solve issues.
This team is an inconsistent mess that can’t beat the teams they should beat. That’s on coaching.
Maybe they’ll win in Anaheim. Maybe not. But this is not a playoff team right now. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.