The Columbus Blue Jackets really needed a win Friday night facing a depleted Chicago Blackhawks lineup at home. The Blue Jackets traded goals with the defending Stanley Cup champs through the first two periods.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the third period. Just as it seemed the Blue Jackets would escape with at least a point, a scramble in front of Columbus' net ended with Blackhawks forward Ben Smith pushing a puck past Sergei Bobrovsky with just under four seconds to play in regulation.
The reaction from the Blue Jackets' broadcast crew tells you all you need to know about how crushing giving up that goal at that point was to the home team.
The Blackhawks earned a win despite missing star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and heavily utilized defenseman Johnny Oduya. The Jackets, meanwhile, lost out on key points with the Toronto Maple Leafs at their heels for the final wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Being so close to at least getting that one point for making it out of regulation would have been a bit more comforting. With Saturday off, the Blue Jackets will be keeping a close eye on Toronto's game against the Winnipeg Jets. Should the Maple Leafs win, they'll be back into a playoff spot for the first time since March 25 when the club was in the middle of its disastrous tailspin including eight consecutive losses.
This is going to feel like a lost opportunity for the Blue Jackets and could give a bit of a lift to the boys from Toronto. This Eastern Conference race is going to really come down to the wire it seems.