The Penguins are back in Pittsburgh and with a new lineup. Newly acquired Jamie Oleksiak gets a spot in the lineup at the expense of Ian Cole and Patric Hornqvist and Dominik Simon are both back after their respective one game absences.
The Blue Jackets, on the back end of a back-to-back, have their starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky rested and playing.
Game opens slowly, Jackets look content to ice the puck any time they can and relieve the pressure.
The Pens 3rd line has an insane shift and Phil Kessel and Conor Sheary each seemingly get about 2-3 quality chances a piece but somehow Bobrovsky holds on.
Ryan Reaves buries a Columbus player cleanly into the boards and then someone named Lukas Sedlak tries to stick up for his pal with a fight, and ooh boy that wasn’t a good idea.
Ryan Reaves hammers Hannikainen and then finishes his fight with Sedlak in like 3 punches, what a shift pic.twitter.com/uNmpAj6xYQ— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 22, 2017
Reaves draws the Pens a power play since Sedlak was the aggressor, so that’s cool too. The Pens skill players get a few looks at the net and some good zone time but no goal.
Sidney Crosby’s run of frustrating play continues when he accidentally knocks a bouncing puck out of mid-air that happens to float all the way over the glass for a penalty. The PK kills out the rest of the period.
Shots 15-8 Pittsburgh after one. Goals 0-0. Boy this seems familiar for the summary of just about every recap of the past few weeks.
The teams keep going back and forth, Conor Sheary gets a breakaway but Bobrovsky makes a big save on him. Play goes the other way and eventually Artemi Panarin makes a cross-ice pass that Pierre-Luc Dubois one-times to the top shelf past Matt Murray to make it 1-0 Columbus.
more french bread pic.twitter.com/wspNcFpwxi— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 22, 2017
Patric Hornqvist takes an offensive zone elbowing penalty, but true to form the league’s worst power play for CBJ can’t extend their lead and the Pens kill.
The Pens keep plugging, Evgeni Malkin draws a penalty and Pittsburgh gets a power play for the second time on the night but they fail to score as well.
Then, all hell breaks loose. Malkin crashes to the net and Nick Foligno dumps him on his wallet. Typical hardnose hockey defending. Understandably though, Malkin is pissed off so he punches Foligno in the face. This leads to a fight.
Then at the final whistle, Sidney Crosby finds Seth Jones and they start scuffling. Boone Jenner and Kris Letang get involved too. Finally some emotion from the Pens stars as frustration boils over.
The result is a power play but one with 3/5 the top group (58, 71, 87) in the penalty box. Still the Pens have Phil Kessel and they have Patric Hornqvist and that is enough to finally score. 1-1 game.
SOUND THE HORN(QVIST)! pic.twitter.com/4QvDmKg5Le— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 22, 2017
Crosby gets out of the box and his first shift Dubois tries to get at him. Shortly after a whistle, Reaves (who’s on the ice, not a coincidence) gets in his face. All you can do with the 2017 rules, and contrary to many’s beliefs THIS is actually his job.
Game goes on and doesn’t boil over for a while until Josh Anderson tried to go leg on leg with Kris Letang, who doesn’t like that and they scuffle a little...On a faceoff soon after a CBJ player gets booted...Then another. Faceoff violation, Pens power play.
Tortorella going crazy on the bench but a rule’s a rule, even a dumb one (trust us, not even the worst sports call of the week in this town, John!)...And whaddya know but the Pens make them pay, Crosby takes a shot that Bobrovsky stops but the fluttering puck is knocked out of mid-air by Malkin to give the Pens a 2-1 lead.
The two-headed monster strikes. pic.twitter.com/ohtx4gx8DM— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 22, 2017
However the lead doesn’t last long, the Pens get busted for a too many men on the ice call and on the ensuing 4v3 power play for Columbus, they get traffic to the net and the Breadman picks a corner of the net from long distance with a nice shot. 2-2 with 3:46 left.
artemi tees it up to tie pic.twitter.com/bOVWv3STqd— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 22, 2017
No more scoring so we go to..
3 on 3 starts, the first shift doesn’t do too much, then Jack Johnson hits a post. Then the Pens shift things and put all the pressure on and take a huge shift in the offensive zone. Two really as they changed players while retaining possession but they can’t quite score. Quite the clinic from Crosby and Malkin though.
And for just the second time this season we’re headed for a..
Malkin is up first, skates in slowly then pulls the trigger and goes over his shoulder. 1-0.
Cam Atkinson goes next as the first shooter for Columbus, he dekes to his forehand and scores on Murray. 1-1 in shootout.
Crosby is next for the Pens, a lot of fancy dekes to his backhand but Bob’s glove is there for the save.
Panarin is goes for CBJ, he tries to deke to his backhand too but the shot goes wide.
Kessel is up for the Pens, comes in with speed and fires 5-hole but Bob makes the save.
Johnson with the chance to win, dekes forehand big save by the pads of Murray.
Letang up 4th for the Pens, dekes forehand and shoots high. 2-1.
Oliver Bjorkstand is the Jackets’ last hope, he tries to deke backhand but loses control and can’t get a shot off. Game.
- Dominik Simon was getting the chance of a lifetime this week on the Crosby line. Then he got really sick and had to miss a game against Colorado. Then he didn’t skate tonight after a shot hit his leg. Hopefully he’s not hurt too badly but you have to wonder just how long this opportunity is going to last and feel a little sorry that this one seemed to be a bit star-crossed for Simon.
- Oleksiak stood out for being 6’7, as advertised a pretty decent skater for such a large player. Other than that jury still out, not gonna win the Norris but didn’t deserve to be cut after tonight’s performance, which as a defenseman in a new system and team, that’s about all you can ask for.
- A lot will be made of the fireworks at the end of the second period. Many were not happy the Pens star players were taking abuse...But, um, can we see for a second that they were the ones lashing out? Sure Foligno gave Malkin a rough ride, but that’s what happens in the NHL when you and the puck go to the net at the same time, you get defended. Malkin then escalated things with a punch. Ditto with Crosby, tying up with Jones and then hacking at him. Other players are still going to play.
- And, though it’s never fun to see Malkin and Crosby and Letang in physical alterations...It’s a game of emotion. Especially a guy like Malkin is known to be more engaged and perform better after mixing it up a little. For Crosby and Letang things on the ice haven’t been going so well, must have at least been cathartic to blow off some steam. Wouldn’t want to see this every night, but hey, gotta do whatever you can to try to reverse the PDO Gods.
- As mentioned in our game preview, CBJ was 13-1-0 when leading after 2 periods. They were tonight. Nice for the Pens to get the 2 points no matter how they did so.
Well, not necessarily pretty but Pittsburgh was a team in desperate need of 2 points against a good team. And they found a way. Who knows, maybe with the fire and emotion of this game it can be put towards something useful moving forward. One more game Saturday night against Anaheim and then the Christmas break.