Steve Gorten sgorten
The Blue Jackets lost ground on one of the Metropolitan Division teams they’re chasing for a playoff spot Friday night, and still felt fortunate.
They did at least pick up one point in the standings with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Nationwide Arena.
But even that point, which coach John Tortorella said was “because of” goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, appeared unlikely until Cam Atkinson blindly whacked in a backhand from the slot with 3:28 left.
The Jackets lost in overtime for the first time in 17 overtime/shootout games this season when Sean Couturier beat Bobrovsky with a wrister from the right circle at 1:52.
“We need two points, but we’ll take one, I guess,” Atkinson said. “(Captain Nick Foligno) talked between the second and third (periods) just how crucial this period is for us, and we found a way to get a point.”
The Jackets started the night four points behind the sixth-place Flyers in the standings, and one point behind the Hurricanes for the second wild card. They ended the night still one point out, but now behind the New York Islanders, who beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 Friday.
“Really, this is do-or-die for us right now, all these points are so crucial, so we can’t allow ourselves to take our foot off the gas pedal,” Atkinson said.
Knowing that, an infuriated Tortorella couldn’t understand why his team came out so flat on its home ice Friday. The Jackets were careless with the puck and largely looked lethargic until the third period.
“Not even close to the way we should be,” Tortorella said, shaking his head. “A huge surprise.
“Why? I have no idea. I don’t have an answer for you how we can play with that type of energy and that type of execution in an important game like this.”
He paused, then noted, “We better not be nervous. Because we’ve got 21 of them coming up here, or whatever the hell we have left.”
The Blue Jackets have 24 games left to earn a playoff spot, which the Flyers have put themselves in position to do despite losing 10 consecutive games earlier in the season. Friday, Wayne Simmonds’ tip of Shayne Gostisbehere’s shot from the right point snapped a scoreless tie at 11:25 of the second.
That was the only goal Bobrovsky would give up against his former team until overtime. He finished with 23 saves. Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth only needed to make 35 saves after the three previous goalies who faced the Jackets were peppered with 50-plus shots on goal.
“I don’t think we attacked enough tonight,” Foligno said. “That was pretty much the difference from last game to this one. They’re a pretty good team structurally, and I just don’t think we had that mentality we normally have.”
Said Atkinson, “I don’t know if we were a little tired, or what, the first couple of periods. It looked like we didn’t really have any energy.”
How tough is it to waste a stellar performance from Bobrovsky?
“I don’t have an answer for you,” Tortorella responded tersely. “You can ask me 10 different ways what happened. I don’t have a (expletive) answer for you.”