Following a dominant win Friday and a disappointing loss Sunday, the Jackets entered Pittsburgh for the first half of a back-to-back. Kirill Marchenko and Tim Berni made their NHL debuts, while Elvis Merzlikins got the start.
The few stragglers in a refreshingly mostly-empty PPG Paints Arena weren’t even in their seats before Patrik Laine fed Johnny Gaudreau with a leading pass to start the game. The latter did his best impression of the former to give Columbus a 1-0 exactly one minute into the game.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL - Johnny Gaudreau from Laine - 1:00 1st Period
Not wanting the Penguins to get comfortable, the Jackets kept the pressure on the Penguins, with all four lines getting decent time in the offensive zone and creating chances. They’s draw two penalties; first Brock McGinn for crosschecking Gus Nyquist into the boards, then Jake Guentzel for high sticking Eric Robinson. The first one was decent. The second one was very bad.
Pittsburgh seemed to come to life following the kills, getting a couple good looks that either got blocked or went wide. The Jackets would regain control of the game towards the end of the frame, but more than held their own against the flightless birds.
Well they sure didn’t hold their own this period. The Penguins would score early on a weird one. While driving to the net, Bryan Rust got the puck underneath the pad of Elvis, who, as he pumped the goal post, then kicked the puck through the bottom of the net and out. After a debate on whether to challenge for goaltender interference, it counted.
PENGUINS GOAL - Bryan Rust from Dumoulin - 1:15 2nd Period
And then they scored again 47 seconds later.
PENGUINS GOAL - Sidney Crosby from Guentzel and Rakell - 2:02 2nd Period
Now down, the Jackets were thoroughly on their heels. That backpedaling turned into domination as the Penguins got consistent zone time while the Jackets struggled to get anything going, one decent yet fruitless powerplay notwithstanding. The Penguins kept driving, and Jake Guentzel earned a powerplay thanks to a Marcus Bjork hold. Crosby cashed in.
PENGUINS POWERPLAY GOAL - Sidney Crosby (2) from Guentzel and Malkin - 10:14 2nd Period
This one Brad Larsen decided to challenge on, which CBJ Twitter seemed split on whether it was a good idea. Either way, the situation room disagreed, the goal stood, and the Jackets went back to the PK. They were (barely) able to kill it off this time.
With a bit under six minutes to go, Teddy Blueger was awarded the ultra-rare Penalty Shot. Elvis stood tall in what may have been the first Latvian-on-Latvian penalty shot ever. The Penguins closed out the six remaining minutes with absolute control, and the Jackets went to the locker room down a pair. Roslovic also tried a bizarre, spin-o-rama pass that went for an icing, which got him benched for the third period.
Showing some resemblance of life, the Jackets kept the game pretty even as the teams traded fruitless powerplays, and even had some sustained pressure in the latter half. Guentzel would trip into the boards, smashing his head against them, and leave the game. The Jackets trotted out some new lines, including Kent Johnson at center with Gaudreau and a sniper, but to no avail.
Larsen seems to have changed the lines up a bit.— The Cannon (@cbjcannon) December 7, 2022
The Penguins got a powerplay with 5:15 left to practically ice it, until an Archibald trip negated the last :25 and gave Columbus a last, dying gasp. Instead, it was a comedy of errors. Larsen originally sent the wrong personnel on, meaning Gaudreau was unavailable for the initial faceoff. As the Pens’ broadcast ripped him a new one for not pulling Elvis, Larsen changed his mind and pulled him once Columbus won the faceoff. Except, Bryan Rust got a turnover, and Teddy Blueger put it past a sprawling Elvis as he scrambled back to his net, avenging his failed penalty shot in the second period.
PENGUINS 4-ON-4 GOAL - Teddy Blueger from Bryan Rust - 16:33 3rd Period
Aside from some Laine blasts from the point, the Jackets failed to score on their fifth power play of the game, and Pittsburgh skated away with an easy 4-1 win. Back at it tomorrow for a 7:30 broadcast on national television against our fiercest rival, the Buffalo Sabres.