Last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets returned from their holidays without several of their key contributors. In addition to missing Brandon Dubinsky and Zach Werenski, the Blue Jackets also lost Alexander Wennberg to a back injury as well as Cam Atkinson to a broken foot. As a result, the team recalled Sonny Milano, Jordan Schroeder, and Tyler Motte. Dean Kukan also came back to Columbus, but did not play.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, were looking to kickstart their season after struggling to open the year. Matt Murray would get the start, looking to bolster his 4-1-1 career mark against the Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky would man the opposite net.
How did things shake out?
Columbus started strong, throwing their bodies around in the offensive zone and generating the first shot on net of the game. Each line looked very direct, working the puck into the zone and going toward the net. Matt Murray made a stupendous save on a Seth Jones shot from the point at 16:40. Bobrovsky finally got to feel the puck with 15:25 to go in the period on a soft shot from Ian Cole. Artemi Panarin saw a shot deflected out of play at the first TV timeout.
After some strong opening minutes from Columbus, Pittsburgh began to get their legs moving in the game, rattling off four straight shots on goal. After a nice shift, a wide shot from Seth Jones found Sonny Milano, who had a GAPING net and wasted no time burying it.
Columbus goal: Milano from Jones and Nutivaara, 9:06
A dangerous shift from the Penguins followed, including a dangerous goal mouth pass that didn’t find its target. Columbus was playing solid defensive hockey, effectively running a neutral zone trap to slow the Penguins down in transition. Bobrovsky was able to deny Conor Sheary after a bad Jack Johnson turnover at 12:42. That turnover was hideous.
On a rush up ice, Boone Jenner was able to capitalize. Nick Foligno (who had just gotten a new stick) found Boone Jenner who buried his fourth of the year at 4:34.
Columbus goal: Jenner from Foligno and Bjorkstrand, 14:34
That marked 10 points in 11 games for Bjorkstrand. Columbus was certainly taking advantage of their chances, and it was great to see two guys who had gone 15+ games without scoring get onto the sheet in the first period.
After some end to end action (including a Schroeder breakaway in the dying seconds), the first period came to an end. Columbus led 2-0 on the score sheet and the teams were tied at 9 on the shot chart.
#CBJ with a strong first period.— Alison (@AlisonL) December 28, 2017
53.49% of 5v5 shot attempts
53.33% of 5v5 scoring chances
75%in of 5v5 hi-danger attempts
Jackets are getting good looks from the right areas on the ice and capitalizing. #heatmap pic.twitter.com/a3MgE4ukJU
meanwhile, in Pittsburgh:
You wanted to know when it was time? It’s now. Now it’s officially time. End of first period at home to CBJ down 2-0 end of 1. Game 38. HIT THE PANIC BUTTON. #Penguins— David Todd (@DavidMTodd) December 28, 2017
Anyway, Columbus opened the second period by taking an interference penalty (Markus Nutivaara on Patrick Hornqvist) at 0:18. The Penguins’ dangerous power play took the ice (it went 2/4 against Columbus last week). Despite a great chance missed by Phil Kessel, the Jackets were able to kill the penalty.
Pittsburgh opened the second sustaining heavy pressure in the Columbus zone, but a concerted defensive effort kept the puck out of the most dangerous areas. On a rush, however, Pittsburgh was able to capitalize. A breakout with speed from Sheary saw his shot deflect past Bobrovsky.
Pittsburgh goal: Sheary from Rust and Sheahan, 5:57
Columbus looked noticeably slower this period, allowing Pittsburgh to find their footing and claw back into the game. Jody Shelley mentioned that as Seth Jones tried to block Sheary’s shot, it changed directions enough to beat Bobrovsky.
Side note: the “Let’s go Pens” horn is the worst thing in the NHL.
Pittsburgh hit the goalpost at the 9:30 mark on what should have probably been a goal. Pittsburgh had been utterly dominant in this second period - Columbus looked to still be in the locker room. A Sonny Milano back check broke up a 2 on 1 at 10:00.
Pittsburgh was all over Columbus in the second, including a 90 second offensive zone shift in the middle of the period.
With 6 minutes to go, Artemi Panarin made a great play at the blue line to set up a rush. His shot was saved my Murray but went right to Pierre-Luc Dubois who was absolutely robbed by Matt Murray.
On a rush up the ice, Artemi Panarin took a long feed to center ice from Matt Calvert. He made a stellar move at the circles and beat Murray high glove side. What a shot.
Columbus goal: Panarin from Calvert and Savard, 16:49
With 2:22 to go, Nutivaara went back to the box for tripping Jamie Oleksiak, his second penalty of the night. It was a weak call. Scott Harrington had an excellent shift as the Blue Jackets killed the penalty. After 40 minutes, the Blue Jackets led 3-1 despite trailing in shots 25-16.
#CBJ second period:— Alison (@AlisonL) December 28, 2017
25.81% of 5v5 shot attempts
21.43% of scoring chances
50% of hi-danger attempts
Wee bit of score effects, but when the Jackets took attempts, they were in the right place. Lead 3-1 after two periods. pic.twitter.com/ewpim4I061
The third period started with Sidney Crosby taking a tripping penalty at 0:38. Oliver Bjorkstrand had a wide open net following a power move by Dubois but committed too much to crashing the net to take advantage of a loose puck as Pittsburgh killed the power play. At 2:42, Riley Sheahan was hooked by Matt Calvert, who went to the box. Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner had chances shorthanded before a Phil Kessel shot trickled through Bobrovsky’s arm and into the net at 3:34.
Pittsburgh goal: Kessel from Hornqvist and Malkin, 3:34
A strong shift followed the goal, cycling the puck and generating several chances. Evgeni Malkin had a chance walking in at the 8:00 mark but was denied by Bobrovsky. Pittsburgh’s pressure ramped up through the middle part of the period before Josh Anderson led a rush up ice. His shot was saved by Murray but Artemi Panarin crashed the net and was able to roof the rebound home.
Columbus goal: Panarin from Anderson and Dubois, 10:02
Pittsburgh pressured hard into the final TV timeout, but Columbus was able to stand tall.
Columbus would go to the box with 5:43 to go for a cross check on Patrick Hornqvist. It took the Penguins all of 7 seconds to capitalize as Evgeni Malkin would score on a rebound from a Kessel shot.
Penguins goal: Malkin from Crosby and Kessel, 14:24
Malkin absolutely laid out Nick Foligno with 3:14 to go but there was no call, because of course. Artemi Panarin made a great defensive play to break up a Kessel run with 2:15 to go. With 1:40 to go, a wrap around attempt from Hornqvist found Jake Guentzel as the Jackets were puck watching and he tied the game at 4. Total defensive collapse from the Jackets late in the game.
Pittsburgh started with possession and appeared to have won the game. Sidney Crosby cleaned up a rebound on a loose puck. Columbus challenged for goaltender interference and won, taking the goal off the board (much to the dismay of the crowd). Pittsburgh went to the box as Guentzel hit Panarin in the face with a high stick at 1:37. Pittsburgh killed the penalty, and then Malkin broke his stick swinging it at the net over Bobrovsky’s head. Little but of dangerous play there. The game eventually went to a shootout.
In the shootout, Malkin and Crosby scored for Pittsburgh. No one scored for Columbus.
Columbus Blue Jackets 4 Pittsburgh Penguins 5 (SO)
Tonight is the type of night we traded for Artemi Panarin for. When the offense is struggling and missing key guys, he is a game breaker that can take over a game and win it. He did that tonight. He is the most skilled forward this franchise has ever had.
Scott Harrington had a very solid night. Stick taps to #4.
It would be great if Columbus learned to stay out of the box against the Penguins. An inability to prevent special teams opportunities for Pittsburgh gave the Penguins 2 goals.
Dubois continues to impress every single night he’s on the ice.
Jack Johnson and David Savard had magic last season. Not this season. Break that pair up. It’s terrible to watch and was directly responsible for the tying goal.
Not a great effort from Columbus from the middle of the third to the end of the game, and a few soft goals from Bobrovsky, a concerning trend.
2 goal lead late in the third. It doesn’t matter who is injured, this team had this game won and shot themselves in the foot to earn that loss. Gifting points to divisional opponents is bad, and tonight was a late Christmas gift to the Penguins.