Three goals from Oliver Bjorkstrand–all in the third period–were the lone bright spots in an otherwise lackluster preseason showing from the Columbus Blue Jackets against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon in a 7-3 loss.
Columbus spent most of Saturday chasing the Penguins around. Joonas Korpisalo didn’t have much of an NHL defensive corps in front of him, but otherwise didn’t look too impressive in allowing four goals on 30 shots for two periods of work. The NHLers looked fine, overall, but there weren’t that many in the lineup.
Just like the Chicago game, the Jackets gave up the first goal quickly after the opening draw—2:04, to be exact. Juuso Riikola skated through the middle of the ice, split the defense, blew past Brady Austin and roofed a backhander over Joonas Korpisalo. Columbus looked asleep for the first couple of minutes and they paid for it.
Austin’s struggles continued when the 25-year-old Monster took an interference penalty five and a half minutes into the game. The penalty kill held up, though, and actually created a few chances for Eric Robinson while managing to keep the Penguins off the scoreboard.
Soon after, a Matt Cullen wraparound beat Korpisalo but snuck under the net. The “goal” went unnoticed and play continued for a few minutes before a stoppage allowed Toronto to take approximately 45 minutes to identify the obvious score and give the Pens a 2-0 lead at 9:21.
Columbus eked out two shots through the first 13 minutes, so you can probably hazard a guess as to the level of play early on.
The Blue Jackets went on the power play for the first time with 1:36 left in the period when Jamie Oleksiak hooked big Josh Anderson in front of the net. The period ended before the Blue Jackets should do much of anything besides getting hit by Riikola. 2-0 Penguins after one (with nothing doing on the power play to start the second, either).
The Jackets spent the first few minutes of the second period in their own zone chasing the Penguins around. A net-front scramble in front of Matt Murray resulted in the best chance for Columbus up to that point, a shot from Dubois that clanged off the post and out.
Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby (Cosby? Kisby? Not sure exactly) couldn’t handle Bjorkstrand and tripped him behind the Penguins net four minutes into the frame. Don’t worry about what happened on the power play.
The Penguins struck midway through the frame to go up 3-0. Crosby set up behind the net and found Kris Letang streaking into the high slot, who ripped it past Korpisalo for the three-goal lead.
4-0 Penguins at 13:00. Michael Prapavessis committed a brutal turnover at center ice and the home side capitalized. Crosby threw a no-look pass to Letang on the half wall, who connected with Adam Johnson in front of the net.
One minute later, a Tommy Cross slash sent the Penguins to the power play for the second time. Yet again, though, the kill performed admirably and set Nathan Gerbe up for a chance (wrist shot fought off by Murray) going the other way shortly after the penalty’s expiration.
The Blue Jackets kept up the pressure and BJORKSTRAND finally broke through. Bjorkstrand curled around the zone and received a pass from Austin at the point, allowing the Dane to skate through and shoot a wrister past Murray at 17:06 of the second. Kevin Stenlund picked up a secondary assist. 4-1 Pittsburgh.
Bjorkstrand got a few more whacks on another rush shortly after with nothing to show for it. 4-1 Penguins after two periods.
Preseason, understandably, doesn’t carry the same type of intensity or animosity as regular season games, so there wasn’t much back-and-forth between two teams that usually don’t like each other. Pierre-Luc Dubois, who played his familiar big game on Saturday, mixed it up with Daniel Sprong early in the third. That was good to see.
Jean-Francois Berube started in net for the third period and got off to an inauspicious start, allowing a howler to Zach Trotman at 1:43. A knuckling wrister beat the unscreened Berube and the deficit grew back to four goals.
Riikola hooked Boone Jenner at 4:45 and BJORKSTRAND made the Penguins pay 12 seconds later. Bjorkstrand took a pass from Prapavessis at the dot and launched a beautiful shot high over Murray for his second of the game.
Not only did Jenner draw the penalty and screen Murray on Bjorkstrand’s goal, he drew another holding penalty on Stefan Elliott shortly after. The Jackets struggled on entries, however, and came away without a score.
The 5-2 hole wouldn’t last for too much longer. Hannikainen poked a puck from a board battle to Bjorkstrand near the Pittsburgh net, who converted from in close for the preseason hat trick at 10:15. This very blog tabbed him as one to break through this year, and a hatty against a Cup contender (even in preseason) is a great sign.
The Penguins got one back at 13:49 when Garrett Wilson cleaned up a loose puck in front of Berube, shortly before Matt Cullen scored his second for a 7-3 eventual final.
No Cam Atkinson, no Nick Foligno, no Artemi Panarin, no Seth Jones, no Zach Werenski, no Sergei Bobrovsky. It’s preseason. But...gross.
Korpisalo showed frustration a few times, understandably. Not the best afternoon for him.
Loved Tommy Cross giving it to Crosby in front of the net a couple of times.
After a shutout stinker in St. Louis, the Jackets didn’t show much on offense besides No. 28. We’ll see more NHLers as the preseason rolls on. Sunday at St. Louis will be Panarin’s debut. Hooray!
What did you think?