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Game #29 Recap: Heart Attack Classic

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The Jackets renewed acquaintances with the Penguins, and nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but an incredible PK and a strong shootout performance lead to their sixth straight win in December.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The last time these teams met in Columbus, it was the end of the Blue Jackets' season. While I think most fans would argue that the Blue Jackets took a big step against the Penguins during their playoff series, the fact remains that they won, and we lost.

With Columbus finally putting together a lineup that vaguely resembled their intended roster, and Pittsburgh missing the top line of Sidney Crosby (mumps? Maybe? Except maybe not. But it probably is), Chris Kunitz (Foot), and Pascal Dupuis (illness), it was arguably a bit of a push on paper, but the Pens still had Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to lead their offense.

Things started off right where this team left off after Thursday's OT win, with Boone Jenner drawing a penalty on his first shift, and some nice work by the power play to cycle the puck and pull Thomas Greiss out of his net. That gave Nick Foligno a wide open shot, and he buried it, giving the home team the early lead, and silencing the usual plague of locusts Pittsburgh faithful.

1-0 Columbus (PP) - Foligno (14) from Jenner (6) and Savard (5) @ 3:02

The Jackets kept up the pace initially, but David Savard had a bit of a rough period, first getting called for a hold on Brandon Sutter, and then a tripping call against Sutter on his next shift, but the PK stood up during both shorthanded situations, doing an excellent job of keeping the Penguins from getting good pressure around Sergei Bobrovsky.

Columbus got some good energy off the back to back kills, and put a few more shots on Greiss, but weren't able to find a second goal. They settled for turning up the physical play, and it wasn't long before the Pens responded in kind.

It all kicked off when Steve Downie started chirping Brandon Dubinsky and Dalton Prout, and after Dubi landed a hard hit on the alleged human being, Downie responded by going after Prout, while Pittsburgh's Bobby Farnham attempted to engage Dubinsky.

I say attempted, because Jordan Leopold apparently wasn't having any of that, stepping up in front of Farnham and engaging with a vengeance. Apparently this was Leopold's first NHL fight - but given the way he put Farnham on the ice and kept wailing on him until the Refs broke in, I have a feeling he's learned a few things about the fine art of bar fights along the way.

Meanwhile, Prout and Downie round 1 was a fairly anticlimactic affair, but as the linesman separated them, Downie apparently said something incendiary, and they went back at it against the Pittsburgh bench.

Once they were separated for a second time, the penalties started being counted out, and eventually we'd see Leopold and Farnham receive fighting majors, Dubi a charging minor, and both Downie and Prout received a pair of roughing minors and a 10 minute misconduct for their troubles.

The PK dispatched the Penguins power play after all that, and just a few minutes later the teams would head to the locker rooms for the first intermission.

The second period would open much like the first, with the Jackets drawing an early power play, and just over  a minute into the power play, Nick Foligno would draw a crosschecking call from Kris Letang, opening the ice up for a 5 on 3, but Greiss made some truly impressive stops, including a bit of glove robbery on a Jack Johnson shot that looked like a guaranteed goal.

After that kill, the Pens gave the Jackets some trouble at even strength, but Bob was equal to the challenge, and it wasn't too long before things boiled over once again - this time with Corey Tropp and Bryan Rust mixing it up for what would end up as offsetting roughing calls, and not long after that dust had settled, Steve Downie was going after Dubinsky again, and this time Dubi obliged him with a frank exchange of views.

Both players landed a couple hits, but it wasn't much of a fight - oddly enough, I'm fairly sure that several of the bouts which resulted in roughing calls had more action than this, but it ended with both players getting a fighting major. Good for Dubi for stepping up, but at the same time, I can't help but feel like trading our best shutdown center for, well, Steve Downie, is a trade you don't want to make.

After the fight, things began to settle, and unfortunately the team slowed down a bit too much. A bit of sloppy forechecking at the top of their defensive zone allowed Blake Comeau to walk down to the far circle and fire a shot that tucked just between Bob and the post to even things up.

1-1 Tie - Comeau (10) from Martin (6) & Klinkhammer (1) @ 15:06

That tying goal brought the visiting fans out of their nap,  but full credit to Jackets fans in attendance tonight, who shouted right back, and the period would come to an end with a pretty full plate of cheers and adrenaline to take into the third.

The Jackets came out firing in the third, opening up a 9-4 advantage on the shot clock before drawing another power play, this time from a Simon Despres boarding call after a hit on Foligno, but almost before the power play had begun, Craig Adams managed to post up on James Wisniewski and steal the puck, bouncing it off the boards and into the neutral zone, where he grabbed it and skated up out on an odd man rush with Kris Letang.

Kevin Connaughton got back and attempted to take away the passing lane, but Adams was able to out wait him and send the puck over to Letang, who snapped home the shorthanded goal.

2-1 PGH (SH) - Letang (6) from Adams (3) and Goc (1) @ 07:22

That goal took a lot of steam out of the building and the team, and though they had a couple of decent shots at Greiss, the power play could not find a tying goal.

Fortunately for the fans in Columbus, that wouldn't be the story of the night.

Boone Jenner was tearing down on Greiss on a breakaway when he was brought down from behind, and the wave of excitement when the referee pointed to center ice for a penalty shot was probably felt all the way down on Park St.

Jenner went in slow, looked off, changed up his speed at the last second, and fired, bringing the fans to their feet with a roar.

2-2 Tie - Jenner (6) PENALTY SHOT @ 12:05

Both clubs went at it, and an extended Pittsburgh possession would come to an odd and abrupt end when Sergei Bobrovsky lost his stick, moved to retrieve it, and caught Blake Comeau with the edge of his stick blade as the former Jacket tried to skate past it. Comeau took an impressive swan dive, and the referees would call Bob for a trip and Comeau for embelishment, putting the teams at 4 on 4 with just over under three minutes to play.

Things looked a bit of a preview of OT when, finally, Jack Johnson got his time to shine. Following up Brandon Dubinsky on a rush into the Pittsburgh zone, he got into a clear shooting lane before taking the pass, winding up into the faceoff dot, and hammering a blast that put Columbus back on top.

3-2 Columbus - Johnson (2) from Dubinsky (2) and Savard (6) @ 17:49

Two minutes and change left to play, a late go-ahead goal, and a roaring crowd behind you SHOULD be a recipe for a dramatic win. Indeed, it looked like they might just pull it off when the Penguins pulled Greiss for the extra attacker, but this team seems completely incapable of finding an empty net lately.

Two long range attempts went for icing calls, and after each team took their time outs (during one of which Steve Downie said something else while the Ref was in earshot, which earned him a game misconduct and a trip to the dressing room), it came down to Brandon Dubinsky taking a draw in his own zone against Evgeni Malkin with less than 20 seconds left in regulation.

The Pens won the faceoff and began to cycle, and while the Jackets did a good job of containing Malkin and Comeau on the left side of the ice, they completely failed to keep track of Letang, the extra skater, who casually drifted down to the right half wall, and eventually put himself in position for a wide open shot that beat Bob cleanly, because of course it did.

3-3 Tie - Letang (7) from Ehrhoff (8) and Malkin (21) @ 19:49

Going to OT was a bit of a mixed bag - after all, the team did at least get a point out of this game - but it really shouldn't have gotten there in the first place. The news got even worse when Cam Atkinson was called for a....somewhat weak...hooking penalty, forcing the Jackets to stop one of the best power plays in the NHL in a 4 on 3 situation.

Remarkably? They did it.

Not only did the Jackets kill the penalty, but they would manage to draw their own power play with just over a minute and change left in the extra period, and while they got some good puck movement, they just simply ran out of time, leaving this game to be decided by a shootout.

For the first round, Cam Atkinson came over the boards, and took a few pages out of Jenner's book, using a nice stutter move to change speeds before sniping it past Greiss to get Columbus on the board, while Malkin would shoot first for Pittsburgh. Geno tried to pull his fellow countryman out of position to the right, but Bob was right with him, and kicked his left leg out at the perfect moment to deny the shot.

In the second round, Ryan Johansen stuck with what was working, and went left, head faked, then burst to the right after Greiss committed to the lunge, tucking the puck into a wide open net for the 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately, Kris Letang would shoot second for the Penguins, and it was just his night - driving wide and then dekeing back in, he made two quick puck handling moves, then snapped a wrister up and under the crossbar to keep the Pens alive.

Nick Foligno would be given the chance to end it, but seemed to lose the handle midway through his attempt, tried to turn that into a spin move (WHY?) and just really couldn't control his shot. That meant it was Brandon Sutter vs Sergei Bobrovsky with the game on the line as he picked up the puck for his shot.

Like Malkin, Sutter tried to get Bob to bite as he went right, trying to tuck the puck in past his leg pads, but Sergei Andreyevich wasn't having any of that. He was locked into the zone, and kicked the puck away, tying a bow on the team's sixth win in a row.

Final Score: Blue Jackets 4 - Penguins 3 (SO)

Standard Bearers

  • Boone Jenner - God damn, son. Is there anything that Boone didn't do? Drawing penalties, tying the game, setting up the power play goal, it was pretty much a complete game for him.
  • Jack Johnson - JMFJ was getting the puck on net all night, and probably should have had a goal during the five on three, if it hadn't been for Greiss pulling a rabbit out of his hat. His defense was even surprisingly not terrible! Quite a night for him.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky - Would Bob like to have a couple of goals back? Yup. Was he there when the team needed him most? You're damn right he was.
  • Ryan Johansen - That SO goal was fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiilthy.

Bottom of the Barrel

  • Nick Foligno's SO attempt - Seriously, whaaaaat the hell was that. Made even worse by the fact that your teammates gave you a freaking blueprint on how to score against Greiss tonight. All you had to do was go in slow, fake hard left, then pull right! That's it!
  • Jack Skille - After some great play over the last three games, Skille really didn't seem to have much tonight, including a couple of missed opportunities off the rush.
  • Empty Nets - Seriously, this team cannot hit an empty net. How about they run a few 200 foot shot drills, huh?

It wasn't pretty, and I am pretty sure my heart actually stopped during the OT power play, but it's a win - and the Jackets continue to pull themselves out of their November hole with a December to Remember. Now it's time to hit the road, and go give the Red Wings some holiday headaches.