Columbus Blue Jackets

Blue Jackets battle in Sonny Milano’s debut

Despite battling back from a 3-1 deficit, the Columbus Blue Jackets dropped their fourth straight game in a 4-3 loss against the New York Islanders tonight.

The four-game losing streak is the Blue Jackets’ worst since the 0-8-0 stretch to open the start of the campaign back in October, which kicked off what captain Nick Foligno called a “tough season.”

“This has been a tough year, there’s no way around it,” Foligno said after the game. “But it’s all about how you finish.”

The Blue Jackets did finish the game strong–forward Brandon Saad scored late in the second period to bring the team within a goal headed into the final frame, and forward Boone Jenner scored his team-leading 29th goal of the season just 0:37 into the third period to tie the game 3-3. It was a solid effort against a good team, according to Foligno.

“We knew this game was really important for them; they’re playing for their playoff lives right now,” he said. “We knew they were going to have some energy and they showed it in the first, but we crawled back into it.

“It’s unfortunate that fourth one had a lucky bounce off the end wall, but we did a lot of good things tonight against a good team fighting for a playoff spot, so I was proud of the way we played.”

Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella agreed.

“I thought we settled the game down in the second period, which [put] us back in the game,” Tortorella said in his post-game press conference. “I thought we played a good third period.”

However, Tortorella was quick to bring things back down to earth.

“We played better as the game went on, but we lost the game. …We lost another hockey game.”

Though the team lost, Tortorella said Blue Jackets forward Sonny Milano, who made his NHL debut in his hometown tonight, stood out to him.

“I’ll have to watch the tape, but what sticks out to me is his speed,” Tortorella said. “Just from [watching him from] the bench, he made some plays. It was a good line for us for a number of minutes.”

The 19-year-old Milano skated alongside Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Saad–not bad linemates to have when making your NHL debut. After the game, Milano admitted he was nervous.

“It was definitely in the back of my head that it was my first NHL game, so I was definitely a little bit nervous,” Milano said. “I know I was tentative at first, but as the game went on, I started to play more like myself.”

He also had a whole section of friends and family cheering him on from the stands, including his mom who told the FOX Sports Ohio broadcast she was very nervous for her son’s debut. Milano chalked that up to her only wishing him the best in his first game.

“She’s a huge fan and wants the best for me, so obviously it’s a nervous moment for a lot of people,” Milano said. “She definitely loves me, so if there’s one person who’s going to be nervous, it’s going to be her.”

Milano said he will take a few lessons away from tonight’s game, including things he wants to focus on in the offseason.

“[I need to work on my] acceleration and get a little stronger,” Milano said. “I need to work on making plays like these guys do. They’re really smart and don’t turn the puck over much at all, really, so I have to work on that.”

His coaches and teammates did have advice for him throughout the game that Milano also took to heart.

“They told me to shoot a little more,” Milano said. “I know I passed on a couple of shots early in the second period, so they wanted me to start shooting.”

Milano is not the only one looking ahead to the offseason and things he can improve on. Foligno also mentioned that the last few games of this season can have a huge impact on the team’s confidence and morale heading into the summer and next season.

“It’s our job to finish strong and build off something here, and take it into the summer and know we’ll be a better team for it,” Foligno said. “We have five games left to make sure we do that.”

Foligno and the Blue Jackets will play again on Saturday when they face the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.

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