In a crowd full of black and yellow, it was a “home away from home” for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2. The three goal deficit doesn’t really tell the whole story of how close this game actually was. After an unfortunate turn of events in the final frame, the game just got away from the Jackets. A bad goal allowed, a goal taken away, and a rash of penalties ultimately doomed the Jackets tonight. Sidney Crosby put on a show for all his local fans, scoring a hat trick for the Pens who were all too comfortable in a supposed rival opponents’ barn.
Here’s how it happened.
The Penguins wasted no time making themselves feel at right at home in Nationwide Arena as they so often seem to do. Brian Dumoulin received a pass from across the zone and had all day to walk in and snipe one over Joonas Korpisalo’s glove. It looked like Patrik Laine got caught puck watching, and his man on the point was left wide open.
Blue Jackets were already facing an uphill battle just thirty seconds into the game.
1-0 Penguins (Dumoulin from Crosby and Letang)
Pittsburgh kept their foot on the gas, hemming the Blue Jackets in their own end for the next five minutes. It took some time, but the Jackets got their legs under them once they started generating a forecheck. Their first chance came when Voracek fed Laine in front during a 2-on-1, but Laine had to receive the puck on his backhand and couldn’t beat a sliding Casey DeSmith.
The Penguins potent power play got their first chance halfway through the opening period. The Blue Jackets penalty kill seemed to play a more aggressive style tonight, and it produced results. Gus Nyquist picked off a pass attempt from Evgeni Malkin and the race was on. Nyquist actually fanned on his first shot attempt, only for it to serve as a great deke, getting the Pittsburgh goalie out of position. He beat DeSmith for his league leading 4th shorthanded goal.
1-1 (Nyquist unassisted)
The Jackets started to gain some momentum after playing the first half of the frame on their heels. They allowed the first five shots of the period, but the Jackets were able to erase that deficit and overtake the Pens in shots. The pressure paid off when Boone Jenner followed his own shot that missed the net high and banged in the rebound off the back wall. Boone Jenner has 16 goals less than halfway into the season. Captaincy looks very good on him.
2-1 Jackets (Jenner from Voracek and Laine)
As is tradition, the Blue Jackets surrendered the tying goal less than a minute later. After an icing call on the Jackets, Sidney Crosby was left alone for a split second at the side of the net. Before Jake Bean knew it, the puck was on Crosby’s stick and then in the net. It was a near perfect play, and there really wasn’t much that Bean could’ve done.
2-2 (Crosby from Rust and Guentzel)
All in all, it was a good response from the Blue Jackets after allowing a goal on the first shot only thirty seconds in, but the late goal hurts and seemed to be an ominous sign for things to come.
For some reason, the Pens opted for a change in net to start the second period, replacing Casey DeSmith with Tristan Jarry. Maybe the team needed a spark?
Early in the period it looked as if Jake Voracek had a breakaway, but he turned the puck over, which quickly turned into a breakaway the other way. Thankfully, Korpisalo stopped Jeff Carter. I don’t think I could have continued watching had he scored.
About three minutes into the period, Sidney Crosby went off for tripping, giving the Jackets their first powerplay opportunity. The first unit managed to maintain possession for nearly a minute and a half, but were unable to find the back of the net.
The Penguins got another chance on the powerplay not long after when Gus Nyquist was called for a trip. The Blue Jacket’s penalty kill was up to the task again with the help of a couple big saves by Joonas Korpisalo (and the post).
For the most part, the latter half of the period was uneventful, but the Jackets were able to create a few chances around around the seven minute mark. From there it really opened up for a few minutes, including a couple odd man rushes, a huge save by Korpisalo on a Guentzel breakaway, and another sprawling save to stop a puck from trickling over the goal line (more foreboding).
The Pens threatened a bit in the last minute of the period, but the second period ended with the score still tied at two goals apiece. Even though no goals were scored, it was not a boring period to watch. The atmosphere and energy in this game has been sorely missed over the last few years.
Just over a minute into the period, Jake Bean had a horrible turnover which led to an open cage for Danton Heinen, who somehow missed the net. To make a bad shift worse, Bean was called for a penalty just after his turnover, giving Pittsburgh their third chance on the powerplay.
The Blue Jackets penalty killers maintained their aggressive approach on the kill, denying Pittsburgh any shots, let alone a chance to set up in the zone. Once again, the Blue Jackets had the better chances while shorthanded.
Unfortunately, not long after the Penguins regained the lead. Mike Matheson, fresh off a three point game the night before, continued his hot streak. Matheson stepped into a slapshot, and Korpisalo thought he had it, but the heavy shot was unable to be contained and trickled across the goal line.
3-2 Penguins ( Matheson from Dumoulin and Heinen)
A few minutes later the Jackets were given a golden chance to tie up the game when Sidney Crosby was called for his second minor penalty of the game. Surprisingly, he didn’t agree with this call against him either.
After failing to set anything up for most of the man advantage, it looked as is the powerplay finally broke through when Max Domi beat Jarry with a shot up high. However, for the sixth time this season, the play was deemed offsides, thus negating the goal. The zone entry was slightly held up and Emil Bemstrom, on the other side of the zone, was early across the blue line.
The crowd reaction to the “no goal” call was absolutely disgusting as the Penguins fans in attendance erupted with glee.
The wheels began to fall off at that point.
Minutes later, Sean Kuraly was sent to the box for goaltender interference when he bumped Jarry as he crossed the crease. About 20 seconds into the kill, Alexandre Texier sailed a puck over the glass giving the Pens nearly a full two minutes of 5-on-3. Not ideal for a team down a goal in the last ten minutes of a game.
It seemed like an inevitability that the Penguins would score — and they did. Sidney Crosby took a backdoor pass and one-timed it past a a lunging Korpisalo.
4-2 Penguins (Crosby from Rust and Malkin)
Shortly after, the parade to the penalty box continued for the Blue Jackets. Boone Jenner took an offensive zone penalty, dumping Brian Dumoulin from behind. Jenner thought it was a dive, but it was definitely penalty, a dumb one at that.
The Pens controlled the puck in the zone for the whole duration of the powerplay, but were unable to find the back of the net.
Korpisalo left the net with two and half minutes left in a desperation attempt at offense. This only allowed the Columbus-area Penguins fans more joy, getting to witness Sidney Crosby notch his 15th career hat trick. There were far too many hats on the ice. It’s a shame how easily Nationwide is invaded by opposing fans, especially Pittsburgh.
Final 5-2 Penguins (Crosby from Matheson and Dumoulin)
At least Jeff Carter didn’t score.
The Jackets are back in action on Sunday evening at 6pm when they welcome to Ottawa Senators to town.