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Penguins vs. Blue Jackets Recap: A nice dress rehearsal, Pens win big

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The Pens and Blue Jackets lock horns for a likely 1st round playoff matchup and Pittsburgh emerges with a 4-1 vicotry in the season's final regular season home game.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

Wow, same lineup as last game, it's a miracle!

1st period

Both teams feeling each other out in the first 5 minutes of the game. The Penguins have the better of the play but don't get a lot going until a power play is called. Kessel gets a few shots off but the Blue Jackets kill holds tight.

Columbus turns the tide and then gets a few more shots. The period looks like it's about to end without any great result, but then Jack Johnson makes a cross-ice pass that isn't accurate and causes a turnover. Scott Wilson pounces on it and Carter Rowney astutely moves to the net. Wilson fires a shot/pass towards him and Rowney deflects it into the net for his 2nd goal of the season.

Shots end up 10-10 in the period. Only one major mistake, and that's why there's a goal to make it 1-0 Pittsburgh after 20.

2nd period

Columbus comes out strong in the second but Matt Murray makes several strong saves. It pays off when Patric Hornqvist blocks a shot, then Tom Kuhnhackl blocks a shot and both take off on offense. Kuhnhackl passes through Seth Jones somehow and then Hornqvist's shot hits Jones' stick again and eludes Sergei Bobrovsky. 2-0.

Brian Dumoulin hasn't scored a regular season goal since December 15th...2014 (though he did score twice in the playoffs last spring)...So of course Dumoulin scores on a wraparound to make it 3-0, and once again off a Blue Jacket player but jeez Bobrovsky totally abandons his net there.

Some bad news late when Bryan Rust gets a leg tangled up and doesn't return to the game.

Shots 26-21 overall for Columbus (and a 16-11 edge in the 2nd period).

3rd period

Early in the period Bryan Rust hasn't returned from the locker-room but the Pens score in the opening minute anyways when Jake Guentzel goes right to the crease and the puck from a Justin Schultz point shot deflects off him and in. 4-0.

Pittsburgh gets a power play but it's Columbus that scores, Brandon Dubinsky backs up Mark Streit and shoots. The puck clicks off Streit's stick and Murray never gets a read on it as it flies by him. 4-1.

Try to take a run at Sidney Crosby at your own risk, Boone Jenner.

And that does it, the Pens skate out with a 4-1 win.

Some Thoughts

  • Mistakes stand out like a sore thumb this time of year, Johnson's play was bad in the 1st. The pass to turn the puck over was bad enough, then he got out-positioned and couldn't take away Rowney's stick when the pass through came. Bad all around. Johnson will be in a big role for the playoffs no matter what, but it will be bigger still if Zach Werenski (out at least for rest of regular season) can't return for the start of the playoffs.
  • Early into the 2nd period the Penguins as a team had 12 shots on goal. Phil Kessel had 5 of them. That figure was aided by 2 power plays, but still. Kessel isn't scoring a lot of goals lately but you can't score if you don't shoot or whatever that Michael Scott quote is. Hopefully he's firing true when it counts next week.
  • A couple of weird bounces helped the Pens, but you take 'em this and any time of the year. Some nice skill plays too. And Murray stood tall as well, definitely outdueling Bobrovsky last night.
  • Could have been a costly game with Rust and Cullen not finishing it. We won't probably have a lot of updates but we'll see when they are able to return.
  • Pittsburgh's speed was on display early. Rust (pre-injury) and Josh Archibald were turning the CBJ defense around with chips and taking off. I'm sure Columbus will address this before playoffs but you can't teach speed and pretty much all defensemen not as good as Jones (and Werenski, if available) are going to be at disadvantages.
  • Boone Jenner is a titanic pain in the ass, he loves to be a tough guy after the whistle. Scott Hartnell was going around taking a run at anything moving (9 official hits in 12:56 played).
  • Ron Hainsey was great on the night, quietly a +3. He's real solid in transition against.
  • Guess who got the assists on Dumoulin's last regular season goal? None other than Steve Downie and Nick Spaling. Rob Scuderi was also in the lineup for the Pens that night, what a world huh?
  • Crosby got killed on the night in faceoffs by Dubinsky. That's an area to keep an eye on next week.
  • Pittsburgh finishes up the season 31-6-4 at home. Considering all the injuries (even from the beginning of the year with Crosby+Murray out, to Letang missing half the season to Malkin and all the defensive injuries) that's just unbelievable.

So with that, the odds shift heavily to the Pens winning home ice for the first round of the playoffs. They're up now 3 points on CBJ with both teams having 3 games remaining.