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Recap: Hard-fought

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The Jackets and Pens battled all night

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the game, neither team was willing to admit that this is a rivalry, but the way this game unfolded it was clear there was no love lost between Columbus and Pittsburgh.

Normally in these recaps I frame the game through the scoring plays, but it’s more fitting that I highlight the fights and other penalties.

The first occurrence was late in the first period. Noted goon Ryan Reaves - acquired by Pittsburgh not because he’s a good player but rather to add some “physicality” to their game - made a hard check on Markus Hannikainen. It was a little high and a little late but a reasonable no call. Still, Lukas Sedlak decided to stand up for his linemate and came in to check Reaves. Both went off for fighting but Sedlak earned an extra roughing penalty. After the game, John Tortorella said of Sedlak’s actions: “I think he’s dumb to do it, but high marks for doing it.”

Past the halfway mark of the game, the Jackets scored first and it was another example of Bread Magic. Artemi Panarin carried the puck into the zone, and sent a perfect pass to Gabriel Carlsson, who fired a one-timer at Matt Murray. Panarin did the same to the rebound (hey, a second chance opportunity!), then recovered the deflection and fed it across the royal road to a waiting Pierre-Luc Dubois, who scored for the 8th goal of his rookie campaign.

Things got more heated at the end of the period. First, Evgeni Malkin took issue with getting pushed around by Scott Harrington and Nick Foligno. Harrington’s play was sound defense (Harrington had a very strong game overall, including a couple of clearing passes from the crease), but Foligno may have been a bit aggressive knocking Malking down. After some shoving, Malkin threw the first punch.

A half minute later, the period ended with a line brawl, including Sidney Crosby picking a fight with Seth Jones:

It took some time to sort out as we waited through intermission to find out which players received which penalties. Jones and Crosby each received a double minor for roughing. Kris Letang received a two minute roughing penalty. Boone Jenner had cross checked Jake Guentzel after the play, which for some reason drew both a five minute major AND a game misconduct. This was an excessive punishment. Was it a legitimate cross checking penalty? Of course. Did it deserve getting kicked out? Absolutely not. To add insult to injury, Jenner had been one of the best Jackets forwards in the first 40 minutes, with 7 shot attempts in 12:52.

These penalties resulted in a crazy start to the first period. After two minutes of 4 on 4, the Letang penalty expired and the Pens got their first power play. While both Crosby and Malkin were still in the box, the third star player, Phil Kessel, was available. He fired a rocket that deflected off of the stick of Patric Hornqvist. Tied game.

At the 14:20 mark, Josh Anderson and Kris Letang had a friendly meeting and their offsetting penalties resulted in more 4 on 4 play. Unfortunately the Jackets did a dumb thing 26 seconds later, as Dubois got sent away from the faceoff dot to be replaced by Panarin. Panarin didn’t get set, which resulted in a penalty for faceoff violation, which you will recall is a new rule this season and one we saw a lot of in the preseason. After a shorthanded attempt by Matt Calvert went wide during 4 on 3, Malkin skated the puck all the way down the ice and made a beautiful drop pass to Crosby. Crosby’s shot was blocked by Bob, then Malkin knocked in the rebound.

Not to worry, though because Christmas came early in the form of Pittsburgh’s own dumb penalty. They had too many men on the ice and for the 5th time in the last 8 games (!!!) the Blue Jackets scored a power play goal (!!!!!!!) Panarin continues to be ridiculously good, with a “simple” wrist shot from the top of the circle.

Neither team capitalized in overtime as both goalies weathered the storm. After the penalties of the first 60 minutes it was refreshing to see five minutes of clean, fast paced hockey.

In the shootout, Malkin and Cam Atkinson scored in the first round and Letang got the winner in the fourth round, on a nifty chip shot over Bob’s shoulder.

Final Thoughts

I’ll take a road point against a good divisional opponent.

Alexander Wennberg went back to the locker room in the third period and did not return. He was missed in overtime and the shootout. No word yet on the nature of his injury or if he will miss time. He has been playing better lately and we cannot afford to lose another center.

After a mostly shaky December, Bob was back in vintage Bob form tonight. Pittsburgh outshot Columbus and 10 more high danger shot attempts in 5v5 play. This heat map shows how much pressure Bob was under, and how relatively easy Matt Murray had it:

Natural Stat Trick

As for all the penalties, Torts had this to say: “I wish the teams could decide the game, instead of other people getting into it.”

The Jackets return to Columbus on Saturday night to host the Philadelphia Flyers prior to the Christmas break.