The script called for the Blue Jackets to honor former coach John Tortorella with a video tribute and a standing ovation upon his return to Columbus on Thursday night.
But the hospitality ended there.
Tortorella, now coaching the Flyers, had to watch his ex-team jump all over some Philadelphia turnovers in the first 21 minutes on the way to handing the visitors a 5-2 loss at Nationwide Arena.
The Flyers fell behind 3-0 but rallied to make it close on goals by Tony DeAngelo and Ivan Provorov.
Columbus put it away on an empty-net goal from Nick Blankenship with time running out. The Blue Jackets added another goal with goaltender Carter Hart on the bench to account for the final score.
Hart (6-1-2) suffered his first regulation-time loss of the season but he really couldn’t really be faulted for this setback.
Columbus’ Johnny Gaudreau, rumored to be a free-agent target of the Flyers last summer, led the Blue Jackets with a goal and two assists.
This was one of those rare games where the Flyers did not receive a power play.
DeAngelo acknowledged the Flyers did not protect the puck well enough to win this game.
“Just control the puck a little more,’’ DeAngelo said in response to a question about the Flyers’ inability to maintain possession. “You can’t feed into good players’ transitions.’’
The Blue Jackets, coming off a five-game losing streak and sporting the worst record in the NHL, raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period.
A giveaway by Owen Tippett, who finished the game a rather nasty minus-5, led to the first goal. Tippett was trying to make a cross-ice pass at the attack blue line but the entry was picked off. Gaudreau wound up with the puck in the left circle and he beat Hart with a rising shot at 3:53 of the first period.
Columbus scored again at 12:03. Travis Sanheim broke up the initial scoring try but Zach Werenski took control and fired in the puck from close range.
In the second period, the Blue Jackets needed only 37 seconds to strike again. Travis Konecny handed the puck to a Columbus player, who triggered another three-on-one with Boone Jenner doing the scoring honors.
The Flyers finally got on the board at 13:04. A shot by Lukas Sedlak hit the post but DeAngelo backhanded the deflection under a sprawling goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.
Provorov pulled the Flyers to within a goal when he rushed the net and banked in a pass from Konecny at 8:41. It was Provorov’s first goal of the season.
Philadelphia knew the Blue Jackets had won only three games and were hungry for a win.
“They’ve been looking to break loose,’’ DeAngelo said. “Tonight they get a couple (early) and they probably start feeling good.’’
Even when they were down 3-0, the Flyers didn’t pack it in.
“You keep playing,’’ DeAngelo said. “We’ve been doing that all year. Trailing is not a good thing so you just can’t keep doing it. Our start wasn’t terrible. . .we just gift-wrapped a few, turning it over to them.’’
The Blue Jackets had to play the second half of the game with only four defensemen. Werenski and Erik Gudbranson both left the game in the second period with injuries. . .The Flyers have allowed an opponent to score first in 10 of their 13 games. . .The Flyers will welcome back former captain Claude Giroux and the Ottawa Senators on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center for a matinee game. A tribute to Giroux will be held prior to the 1 p.m. The Flyers urge fans attending the game to get there early. . .Philadelphia will host the Dallas Stars on Sunday.