The Blues may want to replay the majority of the first period. Summer hockey was in full force, and the young Jackets were happy to pounce.
Lack of execution, poor penalties and overall sloppy play in the first 15 minutes of the game enabled the Columbus Blue Jackets to race out to a four-goal lead — scoring three of those goals on the power play — before the Blues found their game but still lost 5-4 Thursday night at Scottrade Center.
Playing with a stacked lineup that included their No. 1 goaltender (Brian Elliott) along with David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jori Lehtera and the season debut of Paul Stastny and others, the Blues were flat and outworked in many facets by a Blue Jackets team playing many of their prospects trying to make a case for being on their opening night roster.
“There’s digging a hole and there’s digging a big ditch; we dug a big ditch and had to dig out of it,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It’s a good wake-up call for our veteran players. To get them engaged, they just want to throw their sticks on the ice and Columbus wouldn’t have any of it. They’ve got a lot of guys that are right on the edge of making their team. They wanted to prove it. They came out really hard; we took some penalties because of it. Had a little bit of panic in our game and then we settled down and started to play in the second period, and then really dominated the second period. Kept the push up in the third.”
Stastny dazzled on the Blues’ opening goal as he found Joakim Lindstrom in the high slot for a one-timer late in the first period. Tarasenko scored twice, with assists from Peter Mueller on the first and Lehtera on the second one. Backes, who had a fighting major in the game, also scored for the Blues, who fell to 0-2-1 on the preseason.
“The thing that’s telling now … as we get moving into next week, we’ve got one more exhibition game (Saturday in Kansas City against Dallas) where we’re still evaluating. When we move into next week, we really see the page that we need to get a much firmer commitment from the players because we’ve had three games right now where we’ve played a little bit of hockey but a lot of shinny and the shinny’s always been at the start of the game, so that tells you that this is a group right now that’s not sold on the way that we need to play, and that’s going to be our job next week to hammer that down. You see it pretty much every game, we’ve dug ourselves pretty much a hole play-wise and it’s because we want to play a different way. That’s something that we’re going to get resolved next week.”
Brian Elliott, who saw 22 shots, was bombarded with 12 in the first period and had no chance on any of the Columbus goals.
“It showed that it was a lot of guys’ first game in a long time,” Bouwmeester said. “The power plays didn’t help. We gave up a lot of goals. If we get through that first 10 minutes, we probably get through that game. We didn’t and we didn’t do a very good job of just weathering things when we had to.
“I thought things went better as the game went along. … we were just guilty of a bad start.”
The Blues will make cuts that get their team down to 30 players by Sunday. Most that are still on the fringe will get one last opportunity to impress and try to stick it out to the final push.