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Blue Jackets/Penguins Recap: Columbus wins in shootout to break long losing streak to Pittsburgh

The Pens blow a third period lead, lose in a shootout and lose the chance to sweep the season series against Columbus

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images

Pregame

Ryan Graves suffered a concussion last game and is out tonight, drawing John Ludvig back into the lineup. Alex Nedeljkovic gets his fourth game in a row in the net.

First period

The Penguins get the first power play and it’s a disaster. Kris Letang misplays the puck and drops back to defend, giving up a 2-on-1. Nedeljkovic stops the first shot but loses where the puck is. Letang slides clean out of the play. Mathieu Olivier picks up the loose puck and tucks it into the open net.

The Pens decide to challenge the goal for some unknown reason, there was very minimal contact with the goalie but had nothing to do with why or how the goal was scored. The refs take a quick look, don’t give Pittsburgh the call and the goal stands.

Crosby and Smith get separate breakaway opportunities, can’t score on Elvis Merzlikins.

Shots are 13-11 in favor of Columbus. Pens not doing a lot right or anything very pretty in the opening going.

Second period

Time ticks away, doesn’t look like the Pens are doing much right and then Drew O’Connor comes out of no where with his 13th goal of the season. Nice play by Bryan Rust on the left wall to whip a pass across the ice and O’Connor takes it from there. 1-1 game.

Pittsburgh’s moment is slowed by Sidney Crosby taking a penalty, but the CBJ power play is just as feckless as the Pens’ (at least they’re not bleeding goals against, though). Anyways, Rust scores a goal of his own late to give Pittsburgh a lead before the second break. Nice play by Crosby to atone for the mistake on what looks like a set play after winning an offensive zone draw to swing around to the wide side of the ice, take a pass and make a play. Good finish by Rust too.

Shots are 13-9 Jackets in the second.

Third period

Rickard Rakell turns on the jets to make a defensive play than race ahead and finish things off with his 12th goal of the season. Pens up 3-1 with just over 11 minutes to go.

Columbus gets it back immediately. Kirill Marchenko steps inside of Letang, who slips and falls. 3-2 game.

Zach Werenski ties the game up a couple minutes later, walking around Jack St. Ivany and firing one in. 3-3.

Overtime

Back and forth OT. Columbus possesses the puck more but total shots are only 2-1 CBJ. Not much in the way of great scoring chances, though entertaining hockey with all the open space. But really by this point in the game and season, most the players look dog tired about 10-15 seconds after they start shifts.

Shootout

Johnny Gaudreau goes first, tries to come in slow and go to the back hand, Nedeljkovic sticks with it all the way.

Rakell up next for the Pens, toe picks and falls into the net. That doesn’t count.

Texier leads off round two, skates in slow before snapping a hard shot blocker side and in. 1-0 CBJ.

Crosby answers for the Pens by winding in, lots of dekes and quickly snapping a puck in. 1-1.

Marchenko is up for the pivotal round three. He tries a Forsberg-type of push shot off a deke, not even close, looks like it rolled off his stick and harmlessly wide.

Rust gets the chance to win it, but shoots wide.

Former Penguin Alex Nylander gets his turn for redemption but the puck rolls off his stick and no shot attempt happens. Womp womp.

Letang is up for the potential winner, but Merlikins closes up the five hold in time.

Damon Severson is up in Round 5 as the teams turn to some defenders early. Severson makes a nice move to the backhand, Nedeljkovic tries to poke check in vain and it’s an easy finish. 2-1 CBJ.

Do or die for Evgeni Malkin, and he gets turned away by Merzlikins. Columbus wins.

Some thoughts

  • Letang has no luck at all these days when it comes to holding the line. When he steps up aggressively, it doesn’t work out. When he drops back to defend on the rush, it doesn’t work out. Just no good there and he’s still bobbling and failing to cleanly control the puck with a mental block right now. Not good.
  • If you’re mad about that Mike Sullivan doesn’t play Sam Poulin enough (only 5:10 today, rabble rabble), look at across the bench today at how Columbus deployed Cam Butler. The 21-year old made his NHL debut — in the second period. He only played that singular shift all game. The Blue Jackets had a normal 12F/6D lineup too.
  • Speaking of not playing, Michael Bunting only took his first shift of the third period and didn’t play the rest of the game. Would guess that was more about some sort of potential injury or issue rather than a coaching decision.
  • Rust’s go-ahead goal in the second period came with the turbo-charged unit with Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Erik Karlsson all at 5v5. Nice to see some aggressive decisions made more in situations like having a favorable draw, late in the period in a tie game. Wouldn’t mind seeing more like that.
  • Tack on one more assist to Crosby’s ledger (996 all-time, 79th point of the season in 73 games). That’s all well and good.
  • The shootout was a microcosm of the season: Crosby did his job. Goaltending held on long enough to give someone a chance to step up and win it. No one did. (Apologies there to Rust, whose been great when healthy and nearly did score in the shootout in addition to his two points in the game).
  • Can’t even muster too much anger about blowing a two goal lead late and losing. That’s what mediocre teams do now and then. Going 3-0-1 on the year versus Columbus wasn’t the problem with this season.

Pittsburgh heads to NY to see the Rangers on Monday as the last games of the season wind down.