Jeff Barnett / Lantern photographer
Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks was the Columbus Blue Jackets’ first regulation defeat in their last six games — and it hurt.
Goals from left winger captain Rick Nash, who has scored in the Jackets’ past eight games, and center Derick Brassard were not enough to overcome early power-play goals by Anaheim at Nationwide Arena.
In the first period, Jackets winger Derek Dorsett unleashed a dangerous hit on Ducks winger Corey Perry, sending him headfirst into the boards. Perry fell to the ice, and players from both teams exchanged shoves behind the Anaheim goal before referees separated the players and assessed a five-minute boarding penalty to Dorsett.
“It was a hit from behind,” Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. “It’s the referee’s judgment call. When you give (Anaheim) a five-minute major, that gets them off to a pretty good start.”
That judgment call produced a two-goal lead for the Ducks.
Anaheim wingers teamed up for the first tally. Bobby Ryan fed a pass across the slot to a streaking Teemu Selanne, who had no trouble scoring his 15th goal of the year to give Anaheim a 1-0 lead.
Defenseman Cam Fowler’s fifth goal of the year gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead just more than a minute later. After being fed by defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky and center Saku Koivu, Fowler snapped a long-range shot that snuck past Jackets goalie Steve Mason.
Before Columbus fans had settled into their seats, the Ducks had scored their first two shots of the game.
But the Jackets responded with a power-play goal of their own just before the first intermission. Nash cut the Ducks’ lead in half with a wrist shot from the slot. Brassard assisted on Nash’s 23rd goal of the season, which made the score 2-1.
A quiet second period saw the teams exchange scoring opportunities, but Mason and Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller denied everything. Mason and Hiller finished the night with 19 and 35 saves, respectively. But the game had more goals in store, as Ducks winger Jason Blake would give the Ducks breathing room early in the third period.
Blake scored his 10th goal of the season on an uncontested backhand shot, extending the Ducks’ lead to 3-1. Mason was left helpless and hunched in the lower, left-hand corner of his goal when Blake emerged from behind the net.
Brassard later narrowed Columbus’ deficit to 3-2 after a redirected shot from the blue line fell to him just outside Hiller’s crease. The tap-in goal, assisted on by winger Jakub Voracek, was Brassard’s 12th of the season.
Thanks to Hiller, who extinguished a late surge by the Jackets, the Ducks eventually held on for a 3-2 win.
Despite Tuesday’s loss, Columbus will enter the NHL All-Star break with a 3-1-2 record in its last six games. Brassard focused on the Jackets’ recent improvements following the loss to Anaheim.
“I think we had a good push tonight,” Brassard said. “In the third, we competed really hard. We are just going to take some rest right now and make sure we are ready to make a big push.”
Coach Randy Carlyle’s Ducks head into the midseason break in fifth place in the Western Conference. Carlyle commended his players for their effort.
“The guys are putting it on the line,” Carlyle said. “Our guys have worked extremely hard to get themselves in the position we are in. We’re having some fun right now.”
Arniel managed to stay upbeat about his team’s current standing after the game.
“What we’ve done in the last two weeks has been very good,” Arniel said. “I like the way we’re working and competing.”
The Blue Jackets will host the Chicago Blackhawks at 7 p.m. Tuesday.