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Game #15 Recap: Golden Knights edge Blue Jackets as winless streak hits five games

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A shorthanded goal burned the CBJ yet again

Vegas Golden Knights v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

A Reilly Smith shorthanded goal proved the eventual game-winner as the Vegas Golden Knights handed the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets another loss and some more special teams ignominy on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena, 2-1.

Smith scored both goals for Vegas. The visitors took a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the first period and scored a shorthanded tally in the second. Smith’s second came less than two minutes after Boone Jenner pulled the CBJ back even with his fourth goal of the season.

The Blue Jackets appeared snakebit as they tried to rally in the third. Several shots found their way past Marc-Andre Fleury, only to roll out of the crease or be swept out of danger. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the CBJ posted a 66.67% CF% tally in the third and posted five scoring chances to Vegas’s two (though both were high-danger). Fleury finished the night with 29 saves on 30 shots, while Joonas Korpisalo stopped 23 of 25.

Columbus’s power play woes continued on Tuesday. The Blue Jackets logged nine shots on four power plays but came up empty, and Smith’s shorthanded goal followed a blind pass from Nick Foligno that went the other way—one of seven CBJ giveaways on the night.

Columbus will hit the road for a pair of games out west, beginning with Arizona on Thursday at 9 p.m. They may not have Markus Nutivaara, who took a puck to the head from a deflected shot in the second period and did not return.

In the end: not enough. Not enough on the power play, not enough from the veterans (no shots for Alexander Wennberg in 19:59 of ice time, though Cam Aktinson did tally five on the night) and not enough care with the puck as Vegas made Columbus pay on the other end.

The Blue Jackets have yet to win when their opponent scores first.

First Period

The good news for the Blue Jackets in the first: They started the period with speed and energy, even killing an early penalty against one of the league’s best power plays.

The bad news: They allowed a goal in the period’s final minute, then lost an offside challenge to give Vegas a free power play—most of it coming on fresh ice.

The game opened with a rocky start as Josh Anderson hooked Paul Stastny just 1:58 after the opening faceoff. David Savard stymied Vegas’s best chance, though, going down to block Jonathan Marchessault’s shot to keep the Golden Knights off the board.

The Blue Jackets headed to the power play for the first time at the 7:44 mark, courtesy of a Ryan Reaves slashing call. They didn’t score, naturally, but looked competent and generated three shots. Cam Atkinson ripped a juicy shot from Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove side, but could not convert.

An enjoyable period passed with both teams playing fast. Emil Bemstrom created some looks and the Blue Jackets skated to the bench at the under-6 media timeout with cheers from the Nationwide Arena crowd.

Unfortunately for the CBJ faithful, the good times wouldn’t last. Pierre-Luc Dubois lost the puck at the Vegas blue line (by way of a good check from William Karlsson) and the Golden Knights were off to the races. Reilly Smith ended up with the puck off the rush and a seeing-eye backhand bounced past Korpisalo for a 1-0 visitor lead with 44.8 seconds left in the period.

1-0 Vegas, Smith (8) from Karlsson (11) and Marchessault (7) at 19:15 of the first period

Columbus head coach John Tortorella challenged the play, claiming Marchessault was offside entering the zone.

He lost. Vegas went to the power play for the rest of the period.

Second Period

A successful kill started the period on the right foot, but things got scary soon after. A Cody Glass shot deflected off Markus Nutivaara’s stick and struck him in the head, sending him to the ice and eventually to the dressing room. He did not return.

Columbus managed to tie the game 5:37 into the period. Jon Merrill fanned on a shot at the blue line, handing the puck to Josh Anderson for a breakaway. Fleury poked the attempt away, but Boone Jenner corralled the puck after another CBJ attempt and fired it home for the equalizer. Dean Kukan and Nick Foligno picked up assists on the score.

1-1, Jenner (4) from Kukan (2) and Foligno (5) at 5:37 of the second

The tie game lasted 1:59 thanks to a goal on an ensuing Columbus power play...but it wasn’t the Blue Jackets who scored. Tomas Nosek high-sticked Sonny Milano less than a minute after Jenner’s goal for the second CBJ power play of the night. A brutal turnover from Nick Foligno in the Vegas zone went the other way for a Golden Knight rush, where the Karlsson-to-Smith connection struck again for a quick goal over Korpisalo and a 2-1 Vegas lead.

2-1 Vegas, Smith (9) from Karlsson (12) and Holden (2) at 7:36 of the second

After another dangerous 3-on-1 Vegas rush that missed the net, Nicholas Roy collided with Korpisalo to knock the goalie down for most of the media timeout. The interference gave the Blue Jackets another power play at 10:27 with a chance to tie the game.

You can guess what happened, but there was a particularly close call:

Korpisalo—despite not going into the concussion protocol, like he maybe should’ve—looked none the worse for wear. The big Finn made a huge stop on Karlsson in the final minutes of the second and would be tested soon after, as Gustav Nyquist went off for slashing with 53 seconds left in the frame.

Third Period

Vegas charged out of the gate by smothering the Blue Jackets on the forecheck. The home side dug out and looked strong in the Golden Knights’ zone, but their streak of rotten luck continued as a Dean Kukan shot saw its way a few inches wide of paydirt.

Dubois led a 2-on-1 rush but held the puck too long to get a shot off, frustrating a CBJ crowd that was ready to explode.

The frustration continued as the netmouth scrambles and near-misses continued for the rest of the night.

Merrill high-sticked Oliver Bjorkstrand with 6:54 to go for the game’s final power play. Bemstrom (one-timer), Cam Atkinson (wrister) and Bjorkstrand (wrister that Fleury barely kicked away) tried in vain to tie the game.

Bjorkstrand found himself with a banner chance, but Fleury kicked the shot away again for the CBJ’s real final chance as Vegas took the win.