Blue Jackets can’t overcome power-play struggles in OT loss to Ducks

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was great concern well into the afternoon that Tuesday’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets would not be played. A power outage at midday struck Nationwide Arena and the surrounding neighborhood, sending bars, restaurants, downtown condos and the NHL rink into darkness.

The lights finally came on shortly after 5 p.m., forcing the opening faceoff to be delayed by two hours.

For the Blue Jackets, it became the theme of the night. They did score a power-play goal, but their play with man advantage seemed to flicker and short-circuit at the worst possible times in a 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim before 16,432.

The Jackets went 1-for-7 with an extra skater, their lone regret on a night when they played well and mostly carried the play.

“The power play is there to make a difference at key times,” Blue Jackets coach Pascal Vincent said. “The puck speed was right. We had our chances. As the game went on, it was better and better.

“With seven chances on the power play, you want to score at least two. We had some chances. It’s one of those games.”

Frank Vatrano’s goal at 2:20 of overtime was the game-winner for the Ducks, who came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.

The much-anticipated first meeting between Anaheim’s Leo Carlsson and Columbus’ Adam Fantilli — the No. 2 and No. 3 overall picks, respectively, in this summer’s draft — was punted until at least later this season.

The Ducks, who are closely watching Carlsson’s workload during his rookie season, made him a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

Fantilli put on a show without him.

The 19-year-old center had a goal and an assist, the second straight game in which he’s scored. At 9:13 of the third period, Fantilli carried the puck in the zone with Ducks defenders bracketing him.

He pulled up in the left circle and let loose a wrister that may have used Ducks defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin as a screen before beating goaltender Lukas Dostal to give the Jackets a 2-1 lead.

“I knew I was far out (for scoring distance) and Lyubushkin had a pretty good gap,” Fantilli said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to beat him one-on-one, so I tried to use him as a screen and shoot it to him. I tried to go far side and it ended up going in. There wasn’t much to it.”

Fantilli, who also assisted on Emil Bemstrom’s first-period power-play goal, had the first multi-point game of his career. He played 19:15 — second-most among Columbus centers — and won 6 of 12 faceoffs.

It’s clear that Vincent’s confidence in Fantilli is growing, too. It’s rare for rookies to play during overtime, but Fantilli was out for the opening draw when the extra period started.

“He’s an NHL player,” Vincent said. “I’ve said it multiple times: I don’t care about the age of the players, whether you’re 35 (years old) or 19. If you’re a player, you’re a player. He deserved to play the minutes he played. He deserved to start the overtime because he was a force for us tonight.

“I thought the way he was playing, the pace of his game … you want to put him in those situations where you want to see his character. We know he’s got quite a bit. That faceoff, there was no chance he was going to lose it. And he didn’t. He’s building trust with the coaches.”

The Blue Jackets were looking to win a third straight game for the first time since March 2022, a span of 109 games. They’ve now dropped five straight (0-3-2) to Anaheim.

The power play has been a running joke in Columbus for the past several seasons. And while tonight was the latest punchline — they had a man advantage for 13 minutes, 29 seconds, of the game — this was not a case of utter incompetence with the puck.

The Blue Jackets had ample chances to score. Kent Johnson hit a crossbar, Zach Werenski had two wristers deflected wide, and several other players came oh-so-close to breaking through.

Only Bemstrom, though, with a one-timer from the left circle, could solve Dostal despite Columbus creating 15 shots on goal during power plays.

“I thought our puck movement on the power play was really good,” Werenski said. “We had a lot of shots. Hit a few posts. Pucks that almost went in the net. It’s something to build on. I think we moved the puck well. If we can continue to do that, we can put some pucks in the net moving forward.”

(Photo of Alexandre Texier and Adam Fantilli: Ben Jackson / NHLI via Getty Images)

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