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Canadiens fall out of playoff position after 6-2 loss in Columbus

Canadiens fall out of playoff position after 6-2 loss in Columbus
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COLUMBUS — It was the biggest game of the season for the Canadiens, even if coach Claude Julien wouldn’t say so after Thursday’s morning skate at Nationwide Arena.

“According to a lot of people, the last game was the biggest and the one before was the biggest,” he said. “So it’s hard to say. But we all know that this one here has a lot of stake and we realize that. But this game doesn’t have as much at stake if we don’t win the last game. So we’ve really looked at one game at a time. We acknowledge the fact that this is huge for us and it’s huge for them. So it is a big game, but we’re going to try and approach it the same way we’ve approached every other one so far. It’s served us well.”

It didn’t 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 haven’t showed up to start a game, but this wasn’t 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: “Wake up!”

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 wasn’t expected to make the playoffs when the season started.

“If we hadn’t done as well this year, we wouldn’t be playing in these kind of situations,” Julien said after the morning skate. “Guys like (Jesperi) Kotkaniemi, (Victor) Mete, some of those young guys that haven’t had a ton of experience there would not be able to face that. So it’s good. Right now we’re in a battle for the playoffs. A guy like (Max) Domi wants to play in the playoffs for the first time. There’s a lot that we can gain from this. It’s up to us to really take advantage of it, play the right way and give ourselves the best chance possible of winning.”

Now the last four games will all be the biggest game of the season.

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