Canadiens fall out of playoff position after 6-2 loss in Columbus
|Montreal Gazette 28 Mar 2019 at 19:10|
COLUMBUS â It was the biggest game of the season for the Canadiens, even if coach Claude Julien wouldnât say so after Thursdayâs morning skate at Nationwide Arena.
âAccording to a lot of people, the last game was the biggest and the one before was the biggest,â he said. âSo itâs hard to say. But we all know that this one here has a lot of stake and we realize that. But this game doesnât have as much at stake if we donât win the last game. So weâve really looked at one game at a time. We acknowledge the fact that this is huge for us and itâs huge for them. So it is a big game, but weâre going to try and approach it the same way weâve approached every other one so far. Itâs served us well.â
It didnât serve them well Thursday night as the Canadiens lost 6-2 to the Blue Jackets and fell out of the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets and Canadiens both have 90 points now, but Columbus holds a game in hand. Both teams trail the Carolina Hurricanes, who lost 3-2 to the Washington Capitals Thursday night, by one point. The Hurricanes also hold a game in hand on the Canadiens, who have four games left.
Brett Kulak and Jeff Petry scored for the Canadiens. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice for the Blue Jackets, while David Savard, Artemi Panarin, Riley Nash and Brandon Dubinsky (empty net) added singles.
There have been nights this season when the Canadiens havenât showed up to start a game, but this wasnât one of them. Kulak opened the scoring on a soft point shot at 1:15 of the first period that beat Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. When the Blue Jackets finally got their first shot on Carey Price at the 10:15 mark, the Columbus fans cheered. Shortly before that, one fan had shouted out: âWake up!â
They certainly did and the Blue Jackets ended up outshooting the Canadiens 30-28.
This loss was a big one for a young Canadiens team that wasnât expected to make the playoffs when the season started.
âIf we hadnât done as well this year, we wouldnât be playing in these kind of situations,â Julien said after the morning skate. âGuys like (Jesperi) Kotkaniemi, (Victor) Mete, some of those young guys that havenât had a ton of experience there would not be able to face that. So itâs good. Right now weâre in a battle for the playoffs. A guy like (Max) Domi wants to play in the playoffs for the first time. Thereâs a lot that we can gain from this. Itâs up to us to really take advantage of it, play the right way and give ourselves the best chance possible of winning.â
Now the last four games will all be the biggest game of the season.