Losses Friday by New Jersey and Columbus helped tighten up the Eastern Conference wild-card race. The Blue Jackets hope to further muddy matters by snapping out of an untimely funk with a win Sunday night when they visit the Devils in Newark, N.J.
Both teams were off Saturday, a day after the Blue Jackets fell to the visiting New York Rangers 3-1 and the Devils lost to the host Carolina Hurricanes 5-2.
The loss was the second in as many nights (0-1-1) and fourth straight (0-2-2) for the Blue Jackets, who had vaulted into playoff position by collecting points in their previous 10 games (9-0-1) to cap off a 28-game stretch in which they went 18-2-5.
Entering Saturday, Columbus was tied for the final wild-card spot in the East with the Philadelphia Flyers and two points ahead of the ninth-place Hurricanes.
The Blue Jackets were particularly frustrated with Friday night’s loss. Columbus outshot the Rangers 36-28 but frittered away a four-minute power play around the midway point of the second period. They then surrendered the game-winning goal by Chris Kreider with 3:11 left in the game and the insurance empty-netter to Ryan Strome exactly two minutes later.
“We’ve been a team that found ways regardless of what was going on,” Blue Jackets left winger Nick Foligno said following the game. “That’s why tonight was disappointing. We probably deserve better.”
The loss continued an offensive slump for the Blue Jackets, who have been outscored 11-6 during their losing streak and have scored just 20 goals in the last 10 games. Columbus has scored more than three goals five times in 19 games since Jan. 1.
“We’ve got to find a way to be comfortable with the sticks,” Blue Jackets right winger Oliver Bjorkstrand said. “We’re fighting it a little.”
The Devils were unable to build on one of their most resounding wins of the season, a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night when New Jersey scored four unanswered third-period goals in a span of just four minutes.
On Friday, the Devils were on the other side of such a flurry. New Jersey allowed four unanswered goals in a span of more than 43 minutes bridging the first and third periods as the Hurricanes blew open a close game.
“I just don’t think we competed long enough and hard enough to give ourselves a chance to win,” Devils right winger Kyle Palmieri said following Friday’s loss. “We started going off on our own page and that’s what caused the disconnection. It wasn’t a great last 40 (minutes).”
The game Sunday is the third of four scheduled meetings this season between the Metropolitan Division rivals. The Devils host the Blue Jackets again on March 23. Columbus outscored New Jersey 10-1 in winning the first two meetings in Ohio.
–Field Level Media