The Jackets had a couple of things working against them, before the puck even dropped tonight.
1- Oxidization due to not having played a game since last Sunday.
2- They were facing Sidney Crosby and his flock of flightless Antarctic birds, who just so happen to be at the top of the Metro Division.
One benefit to the long layoff was the extra time to scheme and prep for the Pens, and in the first period it looked like the Jackets were ready for them. They dictated play for a majority of the opening twenty minutes, with very good pressure early in the game.
The Penguins have a top-ten powerplay, a lethal unit that is broken down as follows- 40% top-five players in the world, 20% Norris trophy nominee, 40% who gives a shit look at the other 60%.
One thing the Jackets had to absolutely avoid was giving the Pens powerplays. If they limit the man advantage, they're in this game. If they give the Pens powerplay chances, Sid and Co. have good tone, fox-two, Sidewinder up the tailpipe.
In the first period, David Savard was whisteld for hooking, and the Pens promptly potted the game's opening goal. Paul Martin shot from the point, with Chris Kunitz redirecting the puck past a too-aggressive Sergei Bobrovsky.
1-0 Pens: Kunitz- Martin, Crosby
I was super pissed after this goal. Why? Because I traded Kunitz straight-up for Jake Voracek in my hockey pool a few days after we drafted. Look at the numbers. Ugly.
Later in the opening frame, with Kris Letang in the box for cross-checking, the Jackets went to the powerplay. They had very good movement, but couldn't solve Marc-Andre Fleury. More on him later.
Unfortunately, I had the Root Sports (Pittsburgh) broadcast on Centre Ice tonight. You want to talk about brutal? Bob Errey, who does his best, bitched about R.J. Umberger overselling the call after the Letang cross-check. He thought that "...the 6-5, 240lb Umberger shouldn't have gone down that easy". Wow. I wish.
The Jackets had a late powerplay, but man, was Fleury solid. The Jackets outshot the Pens 16-9 in the opening period.
As good as Columbus looked in the first, they looked equally as bad in the middle frame. The hockey gods weren't on their side either, when shortly after the period started, the Pens went up 2-0.The Pens chipped the puck out of their zone, but it hit Dalton Prout's glove on the Columbus bench. The play should have been whistled dead, but instead play continued, and Brandon Sutter streaked in on Bob, beating him under the arse to go up by a pair.
2-0 Pens: Sutter- Glass, Adams
You'll excuse me if I gloss over the rest of the second period- the Pens scored on the powerplay again a few moments later. James Wisniewski was in the box for catching the puck, checking the runner at second, before flipping it to first to get the lead runner. The problem is, you can't do that shit in hockey and he was called for delay of game.
3-0 Pens: Letang- Niskanen, Malkin
Shortly after, Evgeni Malkin swiss-cheesed the defense, namely Olympic teammate Fedor Tyutin to bring the play deep in the Columbus zone. The puck made its way to Jussi Jokinen, who fed a sweet backhand pass cross-crease to some guy named Smegma.
Bob was pulled, and perhaps rightfully so, as he looked shaky.
4-0 Pens: Smegma- Jokinen, Malkin
The good guys got on the board late in the period, when Derek MacKenzie (who was questionable to even play) buried a cross-crease pass from Nick Foligno.
4-1 Pens: MacKenzie- Foligno, Johnson
The Jackets were thoroughly outplayed in the middle period, with the score indicating just that.The Jackets were outshooting the Pens 27-18 however, giving you an indication of how well The Flower was playing.
Just 25 seconds into the third, Brandon Dubinsky was called for holding. While up a man, the Pens were pressuring, and Geno Malkin fired a shot on-net. The puck bounced off of the crossbar, then the post, and bounced out. The goal light energized, and the ref called goal, but to everybody else, including every Penguin, were shaking their head no-goal. It was reviewed, and while we were all in the can rocking a wiz, the powers that be in Toronto who have the best job in the world- watching every hockey game-said "nah man, that didn't go in", and the score remained 4-1.
The Jackets showed lots of life to close out the third, however, and were rewarded with a second goal in garbage time. Ryan Johansen, who's well on his way toward a breakout, pulled off a nice move to mess with Flower's goals-against average.
4-2 Pens: Johansen- Umberger, Wisniewski
That was your final, folks. The score didn't tell the whole story. The Jackets let up in the middle frame and gave up a pair of powerplay goals. Not a good recipe for success against a team like Pittsburgh. The Jackets won't have long to wait to get redemption, as the teams square off at home tomorrow night.
- Credit where it's due- Fleury was terrific.
Cam Atkinson was being Cam Atkinson. Shame he couldn't pot one.
- Ryan Murray was so friggin steady out there.
Bottom of the Barrel:
- CBJ Discipline. You can't give the Pens powerplay opportunities.
- Root Sports
Artem Anisimov was only 29% on faceoffs tonight. Not good enough from your top-line pivot. No wonder the line wasn't a factor tonight.
Here's the Extra Skater advanced stats for the game. In addition to Arty's poor faceoff percentage, you'll notice that the whole top line, plus Tyutin / Prout was hot garbage tonight.
Onward and upward, see you tomorrow night.