Kris Letang (‘day-to-day lower body injury’) misses his first game of the season so all of Hunwick/Cole/Oleksiak have room to be in the lineup tonight. Forwards look fairly balanced and as good as this lineup gets to start the game.
A bit of a quiet start as both teams are coming off their holiday breaks, and it’s the Blue Jackets who strike first. They pull the Penguins a bit out of position with some quick passes and Seth Jones shoots wide of the net. Matt Murray spins around and loses his net, and Sonny Milano has evaded Jamie Oleksiak long enough to find the rebound off the back wall and fire it into the open net.
Columbus makes it 2-0 off a 4v3 rush, expertly executed with center-drives to occupy both Ian Cole and Oleksiak with charging players and Boone Jenner all free for a good look at the net, which he makes the most of blowing a shot short-side by Murray.
sweep score for sonny pic.twitter.com/v0d0S4UWmq— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 28, 2017
Shots end up 10-9 Pittsburgh for the period, which is a little misleading for describing what happened during the play. Natural Stat Trick has high danger scoring chances at 6-2 CBJ and yeah, that’s a better indication of things. The Pens looked sleepy, generated basically nothing dangerous, Columbus did a little more and more importantly made the most of it.
The Pens get the game’s first power play but not their first goal, though there is some decent zone-time, and Phil Kessel has an great look at an open net but just misses wide. Then, finally, Pittsburgh scores. It’s Conor Sheary on the rush to make it 2-1.
Dangle, dangle, look for the pass... Not there... GOAL! pic.twitter.com/kTuNWbR8IV— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 28, 2017
Pittsburgh gets some life, Patric Hornqvist very nearly scores on the backhand, then the Malkin/Kessel duo work some magic but can’t quite beat Sergei Bobrovsky either.
Hornqvist then takes a penalty but that barely hurts the Pens momentum as they have a great kill and continue to press on looking for the equalizer.
The equalizer doesn’t come at the juncture, though. Artemi Panarin does what he does against the Penguins, that being scoring a goal. The Pens give up another odd-man rush against, Bryan Rust hustles to get in the play but Panarin pulls up, Rust flies by and Breadman has plenty of time and space to pick the top corner on Murray and make it 3-1.
the goal was slick but how about that calvy feed pic.twitter.com/bmmpPmOJmk— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) December 28, 2017
Pittsburgh gets their 2nd power play of the game but does less with it than the first time around.
Shots for the period end up 16-7 for the Pens, which is actually a pretty good representation of the period. Only problem is Panarin’s late goal leaves them no closer than they started at the beginning of the 2nd, and with only 20 minutes left.
Columbus gets another power play but as usual does nothing with it, and the Pens get one immediately after their PK ends. Pittsburgh gets the first power play goal of the game with Phil Kessel shooting from long range that finds a hole in Bob and trickles in. 3-2.
With that power-play goal, Phil Kessel tallies his 40th point of the year. He also has seven goals in his last ten home games. Hornqvist and Malkin pick up the helpers. pic.twitter.com/xur59sd095— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 28, 2017
Try as they may, the Pens just can’t catch up. They push for a goal and give up another odd-man rush. This time Murray stops the first but can’t find the rebound that’s sitting right in the crease. Unfortunately the Breadman knows right where it is and scores his second goal of the game and like his one millionth against Pittsburgh. 4-2.
Down 2 late, all hope seems lost but the Pens keep going. Hornqvist draws another penalty and Evgeni Malkin makes a wonderful move right in front of the net to bat down a puck from going wide and punch it into the net to make it 4-3 CBJ.
As the game is dying down the Pens get a little desperate and start mixing and matching talent. Malkin makes a wonderful play behind the net to find Hornqvist as reverse the course of the action which really seems to throw CBJ for a loop. Hornqvist skates out to the front of the net and finds Jake Guentzel unmarked at the far post. Bingo, bango 4-4.
Where are you from?— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 28, 2017
PITTSBURGH, GUENTZELVANIA! pic.twitter.com/lwcCVpaekH
So that means...
Early in the session, Guentzel comes in on the left side and throws the puck to the front of the net for...Brian Dumoulin? Dumoulin doesn’t score but the puck eventually gets to Crosby who does score -- but wait! The officials determine Dumoulin interfered with Bobrovsky.
Guentzel takes a two-minute minor for high sticking a little later on but the Pens kill it off and little else happens so that means a...
Malkin up first, a deke and a cheeky 5-hole shot in the net.
Pierre-Luc Dubois up first for CBJ, tries to deke, loses control. Womp womp.
Crosby next, comes down with a little speed and again goes 5-hole. 2-0 in the shootout.
Do or die for Breadman, he winds out all the way to the left and cuts in slowly, tries to deke to the backhand but Murray makes the save.
- Guentzel-Malkin-Kessel Cole/Oleksiak were all on the ice for the first two goals against and both in the first period. The forward lines were shuffled at intermission.
- Olli Maatta was pretty good as a puck distributor up top on the power play. I hope the “he can’t skate at all” narrative took note of the wheels to get all the way to the far wall and prevent a bouncing puck from clearing the zone too, if we’re trading anecdotes.
- Chad Ruhwedel got hurt in the second period and didn’t return. Yikes. That means 0 RH defensemen with health at this point.
- Rust would also cringe and grab his hand in the third period and leave the game to not return.
- Another slow start, and another game down 2-0 by the time the game is 15 minutes old. It’s a tough story for this year’s team but one that’s been repeated too many times.
- Great night for Maatta with 5 SOG and 10 total shot attempts. He was buzzing in the offensive zone and very active as far as moving around in it as well, which isn’t always the case, but when he’s playing well, he’s not just stapled to the blueline. Several close calls for him tonight to score a goal.
- The Pens were very lucky to get back into this one with 2 goals in the last 5 minutes. Columbus was 13-1-1 entering tonight when up after 40 minutes of play, and they came into the 3rd tonight with a 2 goal lead.
- That said, Columbus is a good team and Bobrovsky is one of the best goalies these days but they simply don’t know how to clamp down and beat the Penguins. No lead ever seems safe for them. Not sure if it’s mental or just coincidental but it’s never a bad thing to “have the number” of a division foe like the Pens do right now in this situation.
- But, it wasn’t like Murray was all that sharp either between spinning around awkwardly on the first goal and not finding the rebound on the 4th...Not the best outing for Murray. The Pens were giving up plenty of odd-man breaks against but those were a couple he coulda/shoulda kept out of the net.
- Malkin was a monster in the 3rd period. 1g+2a in that last regulation period alone for Geno, and the nice goal in the shootout too.
- Couple nice PK faceoff wins in OT for Carter Rowney. Interesting too how the doghoused Ian Cole got rode big time as the only defenseman on the ice in the 3v4 PK for the majority of the crunch time..
Down for the majority of the game and down 2 goals with 5 minutes left? Yeah, you’ll take the 2 points in the standings every time in that situation.