For the first time since the sixth grade picnic the Penguins use the same lines and lineup as the game previous.
Lined up and ready for battle.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 7, 2019
No cannons allowed. pic.twitter.com/BqASkYg6Z7
Pittsburgh gets an early power play two minutes into the game, and it doesn’t take long at all for Phil Kessel to FINALLY and thankfully get the monkey off his back with his first goal in 17 games. And of course, off a scramble he just throws a puck towards the goalie and it goes in. Doesn’t even look like the angle was on the net, but hey. Nothing special, but a great way to get a slump buster.
The Blue Jackets challenge for goalie interference but there isn’t much there that Patric Hornqvist did, and Joonas Korpisalo was all sprawled out anyways and not from Hornqvist, that puck was going in anyways. So Columbus loses their timeout on the unsuccessful challenge.
The Pens get a second early power play when Adam McQuaid high sticks a guy. This time it’s very sloppy and does nothing.
Then Pittsburgh goes into a shell, and gets shelled. Not really by choice but they were having all sorts of trouble keeping the puck and got hemmed in a few times.
Justin Schultz sends the Jackets to a power play late for “interference” off a face off when really his guy just fell on the back of the linesmen who dropped the puck.
Shots end up 10-4 Columbus. The Pens didn’t have a shot on goal in the last 11:45 of the period, but they did score the only goal of the period.
The Pens kill off the power play that carries over into the second.
Evgeni Malkin gets a breakaway, but Korpisalo does well to stick with him and make a pad save.
Jake Guentzel and McQuaid joust going down the ice and Guentzel’s stick comes up and clips the player, second CBJ power play. They get good zone time, but not much more as the PK holds.
A chippy game boils over with Garret Wilson and Nick Foligno dropping the gloves. Scarily, Wilson’s head bounces off the ice as the players fall and opens up a big cut.
Guentzel blocks a shot and has to leave the game for a shift, as soon as he comes back he’s rudely welcomed by Zach Werenski shoving him into the boards from behind. Poor Jake couldn’t catch a break in the second period.
Murray and Korpisalo both trade a couple of really nice saves at the end of the period to keep it a 1-0 game. Zach Trotman is defending on the rush when a shot banks off his stick and into his face and a Penguin is bloodied for the second time this period. He drops like a ton of bricks and has to leave the game.
The third line has a strong shift in the offensive zone, Hornqvist was making a difference, and after a bit of a broken play while using Hornqvist as a screen, Nick Bjugstad uses his big 6’6 frame to deke backhand to forehand and then snaps a nice five-hole shot that beats Korpisalo. 2-0 Pens.
Shots for the second period end up 18-7 Pittsburgh. Big loss for CBJ with as much control as they had of the puck to not have it translate to shots on goal.
Amazingly, Trotman is back for the start of the third.
Foligno takes a penalty early on for swinging his elbow in Teddy Blueger’s head (that MONSTER!) Sidney Crosby wins the faceoff and gets high sticked by Boone Jenner, Sid has to go to the room, but Jenner’s whistled for the double-minor for drawing blood.
Pittsburgh has 1:55 of 5v3 play. But they don’t have the services of Crosby, and even ice the puck at one point late during the sequence after some zone time. Schultz hits the post late, with Sid back on after getting the blood addressed.
Pens use their time out, the 5v3 is over but they still have a full 5v4 thanks to Jenner’s double-minor. They don’t score.
With 7 minutes left in the game Hornqvist goes to the box for high sticking to open a door for a comeback but the penalty kill holds strong.
Columbus pulls the goalie with about 2:45 left. Matt Duchene (hey, he played this game) has the seas part for him and has a shot from right in front, Murray is huge in stopping it.
CBJ keeps up the pressure but just can’t crack the code that is Matt Murray. They turn the puck over and it’s Crosby with an empty net in front of him...Game. 3-0.
- Great to see Phil get off the schnide with a goal. Seemed like only a matter of time and now let’s see if the floodgates open up a little bit for him here in the future.
- Also, for a 17-game goal drought, Kessel scored his 22nd goal of the year tonight. All things considered, that’s pretty impressive to at least have stocked up goals early.
- In an effort to switch things up, midway through the game the Pens swapped wings on the 1st and 3rd lines. Dominik Simon jumped up with Guentzel-Crosby and Jared McCann bumped down with Nick Bjugstad-Hornqvist.
- This game felt VERY playoff 2017-y. No Kris Letang is an obvious parallel, Pens getting hemmed in with defensemen who just can’t move the puck reliably and consistently, long stretches of not getting shots on goal, and excellent goaltending. Not sure that’s a recipe to be repeated, but then again Letang’s return is on the horizon.
- Great to see Trotman back for the third, a puck went straight into his face and the way he dropped, it didn’t look good. You never know what can happen but apparently it didn’t have as bad of results as it looked, because it looked terrible.
- Didn’t like many of the penalties earlier. The first time CBJ went to the box it was basically because Bjugstad just fell, no scoring chance was created or denied. Similarly, Schultz’s penalty was because a guy tripped probably due to the linesman. It evened out in that regard, and it’s probably a good thing for Pittsburgh to trade extra power plays.
- The big controversy of this game was Columbus starting Korpisalo and not even dressing Sergei Bobrovsky. Officially they called it a “scheduled day off” for their starting goalie, but thinking logically - who schedules a day off for the starting goalie during one of the most important games of the season. That’s not hyperbole, this literally could be a make or break, turning point type of game for Columbus. The Jackets didn’t play last night and they don’t play tomorrow. This is not the time to schedule a day off if that’s your go-to goalie.
- That said, Korpisalo justified the decision to get the call. He was Columbus’ best player. The Bjugstad goal was a bit weak but otherwise he made a ton of quality stops to keep his team in the game.
- Whomst among us would have guessed 6 months ago (or 6 weeks ago) that McCann-Bjugstad-Hornqvist is the third line that’s settled in? At least for the moment, anyways. Their styles mesh well too.
- If you were keeping track that’s 3 separate Pens bleeding from the head for various reasons in this game. Tough time of year. Luckily none would be out for very long and able to finish the game.
- Finally, man, Matt Murray is totally locked in right now. He was focused, sharp, challenging every shot, on his angles, battling, not leaving rebounds. You name it, he did it tonight, a resoundingly great performance in really what’s becoming a pretty long line of them lately.
And now the chance to deliver a possible TKO on Saturday when these two teams meet again. The Pens might be much better if Letang’s able to return. Columbus has to be a fragile, vulnerable team on the edge. Then again, wounded animals can be the most dangerous and it won’t be a walk in the park, but tonight’s win at least allows the Pens to be in a position of power heading into the second half of this home-and-home series.
But, there are 16 games left in the season. Nothing is over just quite yet, but it’s definitely a lot nicer to come out on the winning end of this rivalry yet again.