MONTREAL — As empty losses go, this one felt cavernous for the Blue Jackets.
Not the Grand Canyon. A black hole.
The Blue Jackets came back from a 3-0 deficit last night at the Bell Centre, only to give up two goals in the final 67 seconds — the latter an empty-netter — and lose 5-3 to the Montreal Canadiens in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 21,273.
The loss, a third straight for the Blue Jackets (2-4), marred a big game for rookie Boone Jenner, who scored the first two goals of this NHL career, both on power plays.
Afterward, the Blue Jackets’ dressing room was nearly silent as players stared off in the distance.
“They came out flying,” Jenner said. “We were down three, but we didn’t stop.
“The second half of that game, I think we really picked it up. But it’s tough to swallow what happened at the end.”
Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec scored the winner with 1:07 left, looking to his left as if to pass but shooting the puck on Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Probably everybody fell for Plekanec’s fake, especially Bobrovsky, who could not recover. The puck also caromed off the leg or skate of Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray — he wasn’t sure which — before it found the net.
The Jackets nearly tied the score in the final minute. Up two skaters with Bobrovsky pulled and Montreal’s Josh Gorges in the penalty box, Cam Atkinson passed on a chance from the left side, and his pass to Jenner in the low slot was disrupted.
Montreal scored in an empty net — Plekanec again — with 15.6 seconds left.
“All that work … ” said Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen, who got his first goal of the season. “To see that happen late is tough.”
The Blue Jackets started the game in slow motion. Or maybe the Canadiens had espresso coursing through their veins. Either way, it looked like a mismatch. Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban was dominating, assisting on the first two goals by Rene Bourque (power play) and Michael Bournival to put the Canadiens up 2-0 after only 12:01.
The Jackets steadied, but only slightly. A short-handed goal by Andrei Markov put the Canadiens up 3-0 at 6:52 of the second.
“Obviously, our start wasn’t good,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “We didn’t start the game on time. We did a lot of standing around while they were skating. We talked about it before the game, but for whatever reason, the speed of the game overwhelmed us.”
Jenner’s first goal came at 7:41 of the second when he poked in a rebound off a Johansen shot to cut Montreal’s lead to 3-1. On his second goal, he beat Montreal goaltender Carey Price to a rebound off a Mark Letestu shot. The goal made it 3-3 at 4:35 of the third period.
“We got better (during the game), but it’s a loss,” Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky said. “It’s zero points. It’s not good enough. We have to find a way to turn some of these ‘efforts’ — as some people call them — into points. Until we do that, it’s just not good enough.”