It's a shame that these teams won't have an opportunity to play each other in a playoff rematch this year, because if tonight's game was any indication, this budding rivalry is still very much alive.
It took just over a minute for the Jackets to get their first opportunity to draw blood, when David Perron was whistled for high-sticking Ryan Johansen. A beautiful Marc-Andre Fleury glove save off a Scott Hartnell tip was the only thing that kept the Jackets from taking the early lead.
The Jackets were playing great hockey to start the game, and came close to scoring again minutes later on a Brandon Dubinsky-Matt Calvert two-on-one. Fleury made another huge save to shut the door. The Atkinverts flanking Dubi took too long to get back together this season, the trio had terrific chemistry last year and have shown in recent games that they compliment each other perfectly.
With 7:44 left in the opening frame, the Jackets went back to the powerplay after Craig Adams was called for interference, but couldn't convert.
The Pens didn't get their first quality scoring chance until the 15 minute mark, when after a turnover and a scramble in front of starter Curtis McElhinney, the puck bounced around before getting swept out of danger. The Jackets had the momentum in their favor, and had the Penguins on their heels.
Columbus was rewarded for their hard work, opening the scoring at the 17:43 mark. After a nice keep-in at the Pens' blueline by Fedor Tyutin, Alexander Wennberg gathered the puck on the half wall, placing a perfect pass in front of Fleury, where Scott Hartnell was there to tuck the puck between Fleury's pad and the post.
1-0 Jackets: Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg, Fedor Tyutin
The goal was Hartnell's 11th point in his last eight games. The eight-game streak is currently the longest active points streak in the NHL.
The Pens came out with greater urgency to start the second period, and almost tied the game early. After a McElhinney kick save, the rebound landed on the stick of Sidney Crosby, who was staring at an open net. He fired a shot, but McElhinney flashed the glove to rob him. It was the first of many terrific saves by McElhinney, who has been nothing short of incredible since Sergei Bobrovsky went down to injury.
The Pens continued to pressure, and at 8:58 of the second they tied the game. Paul Martin carried the puck from the neutral zone down to the goal line to McElhinney's left, tossing it to the front of the net. Evgeni Malkin was there to pot the loose puck into the net.
1-1: Evgeni Malkin - Paul Martin, Simon Despres
Midway through the period, Jared Boll took an extended run at Steve Downie, applying a hard check on the Pens' winger between the benches. The two mixed it up, and were handed matching roughing penalties.
With 5:51 left in the middle frame, a very rare occurrence took place: after ducking to miss a check from Dubinsky, Crosby attempted to pin Dubinsky beneath him, but Dubinsky grabbed his leg, and the pair went off-balance. Crosby's frustration from Dubinsky's tight checking dating back to last season boiled over, and the pair dropped the mitts. It wasn't much of a fight, but it's always great to see the game's stars take matters into their own hands.
Late in the period, Downie was up to his usual antics, firing a cheap shot into the jaw of Nick Foligno. Foligno retaliated with a punch to Downie's head, earning him a roughing call. The Pens couldn't convert while up a man, thanks to another beauty glove save by McElhinney.
The Penguins came out strong in the first half of the final period, and despite some mistakes by the Jackets, could not beat McElhinney.
With 11:56 left, Beau Bennett was sent to the box for slashing after chopping Dubinsky's stick out of his hands. Just 22 seconds into the penalty, Maxime Lapierre joined Bennett in the box after clipping Kevin Connauton with a high stick. The five-on-three was a perfect opportunity for the Jackets to take the lead, but Fleury came up huge to keep the game tied
At 16:10 of the third, Connauton was called for tripping. It was the Jackets though, that broke the deadlock. Calvert snuck behind the defense, receiving a pass and taking the puck hard to the net before getting bumped off by a back-checking Blake Comeau. Calvert avoided Fleury, but Comeau made contact with his goalie, and Dubinsky was there to pot the loose puck into the net.
2-1 Jackets: Brandon Dubinsky - Matt Calvert, Fedor Tyutin
With 1:42 left, the Penguins took a timeout and pulled Fleury. After a furious scramble, the puck was cleared and the final horn sounded.
FINAL SCORE: 2-1 Jackets
- Brandon Dubinsky was a force all night. When he wasn't creating chances offensively, he was getting under the skin of Crosby, which led to their fight. His shorthanded game winner was icing on the cake.
- Curtis McElhinney was brilliant tonight, many of his saves were highlight reel-caliber.
- You can tell Scott Hartnell hates the Pens, he was really "on" tonight.
- I thought Cam Atkinson had a tough game. He missed on a wide open net, and had a hard time controlling the puck at times.
For the advanced stats for this game, check out War on Ice.
The Jackets are back in action on Saturday in Montreal, against the Canadiens.