In the Habs Room: They got better as the game went on and we didn’t

In the Habs  Room:  They got better as the game went on and we didn’t
COLUMBUS — The Columbus Blue Jackets were simply the better team on this night — much better — beating the Canadiens 6-2 at Nationwide Arena.

But the game didn’t start out that way, with the Canadiens taking a 1-0 lead only 1:15 into the first period on a goal by Brett Kulak and holding the Blue Jackets without a single shot until the 10:15 mark. The Canadiens were also leading 2-1 when Jeff Petry scored at 8:36 of the second period before the Blue Jackets exploded for five unanswered goals, including an empty-netter.

“We had a good first period,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “Especially the first 10 minutes, we seemed sharp, seemed alert. And then the second period, a bad start. We gave up a 5-on-2 on that first goal (at 1:42). Bad line change and it ends up costing us a goal. We hung in there, but they got better as the game went on and we didn’t. So that’s pretty well the story of tonight. A lot of mistakes.

“We had a hard time making two passes in a row tonight,” the coach added. “So it was a bit of a sloppy game for us from the second period on and it ended up costing us.”

It certainly did since the Canadiens lost the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens and Blue Jackets both have 90 points, but Columbus holds a game in hand.

Julien said he’s confident his team can bounce back with only four games left in the season.

“Because we’ve done it all year,” he said. “It’s pretty simple. No matter how bad this loss hurts, we’ve got character players in that dressing room. Character players that care, that want to do well and, as a coach, you love seeing that. I’ve got a lot of young guys, but I’ve also got some good veterans and a good mix. So I’m confident we’re going to go to Winnipeg and we’re going to be ready to play.”

The Canadiens are back in action Saturday against the Jets (7 p.m., SNE, SN360, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio). Their final three opponents after that are the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Brendan Gallagher said he’s not concerned by the Canadiens’ tough schedule.

“We need to win hockey games,” said Gallagher, who finished minus-4 against the Blue Jackets. “We’re a pretty good team ourselves if we’re playing the way we need to play. That’s all we need to focus on. Focus on ourselves. We can’t be worrying about what’s going on around the league. We just need to win our games.”

Nicolas Deslauriers, who took the injured Paul Byron’s spot on the fourth line, logged 14:14 of ice time and was minus-2. Jonathan Drouin, who had 12:28 of ice time, was minus-1. Kulak had a good night with a goal and an assist. Carey Price allowed five goals on the 29 shots he faced.

“Tight games, as big as they are, it’s usually the team that cracks first that’s going to lose,” Gallagher said. “We definitely cracked first. We made a lot of mistakes. They’re a good hockey team. We don’t need to make it easy on them. We made it easy for them to get those chances and eventually score goals. That’s on us. But at the same time, we move on. We get ready for our next game in Winnipeg, find a way to win that one and things can turn around quickly here.”
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