The Blue Jackets head into the offseason on a sour note, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins by a final score of 5-3. This one appeared to be over early with the Penguins scoring 3 goals on their first 8 shots, chasing starter J.F Berube from the net. To their credit, the Jackets didn’t go out with a whimper, forcing the Penguins to earn the victory. They made things interesting in the third period, scoring a pair of goals (including a couple milestones), but the hole they dug early was just too deep.
Here’s how it went down...
From the drop of the puck, the Penguins were the better team early. J.F. Berube made a big save on Guentzel in the opening minute, but it was downhill from there for the Jackets’ backup goaltender. The Pens generated the first six shots of the game, and it didn’t take long at all for them to take a lead. A scramble in front of the net saw Evgeni Malkin bang home a loose puck that Berube was unable to locate.
1-0 Pens (Malkin from Heinen and Pettersson)
Less than two minutes later the Blue jackets gifted the Pens another goal. Pittsburgh entered the zone, and threw a pass cross crease that J.F. Berube attempted to poke away, only to pass the puck directly to Evan Rodriguez, who wasted no time putting it in the net.
2-0 Pens (Rodriguez from
J.F. Berube Guentzel and Blueger)
I could barely keep up at this point, but just moments later, the Pens scored again. A blown coverage led to another goal by Marcus Pettersson who pinched in from the point and beat Berube short side.
3-0 Pens (Pettersson from Malkin and Boyle)
That was it for J.F.
Elvis Merzlikins had thought his season was over, but was called back into action less than seven minutes into the game to try and stop the bleeding.
The Jackets managed to go a few minutes without giving up a goal, and even managed to generate a few chances of their own. Oliver BJORKSTRAND hit a post and then was robbed by a nice glove save by Pens goaltender Casey DeSmith on the same shift.
The Jackets drew a penalty with seven minutes remaining, but were unable to generate much. After a few more minutes of uneventful hockey, the Jackets got another chance on the man advantage with just over a minute remaining. They were at least able to generate some pressure that time, but DeSmith made a few strong saves to keep the Blue Jackets off the board.
The Blue Jackets would carry over less than a minute of power play time into the second. The Jackets woke up about halfway through the period, but it looked like it was going to be too big of a deficit to overcome.
The Blue Jackets were unable to do anything with their remaining time on the power play, so they figured they’d give the Penguins a shot shortly after their own expired. Dean Kukan interfered with Evgeni Malkin as he attempted to enter the Jackets’ zone. The penalty kill was strong, with Eric Robinson and Justin Danforth generating the best chances, as well as the only shots on goal.
The parade to the penalty box continued with Jeff Carter committing a cross-checking penalty on Cole Sillinger, just five minutes into the period. Once again, it was the shorthanded team creating the better (and only) chances. Merzlikins was forced to make a strong save on an odd-man rush when Yegor Chinakhov couldn’t handle a pass cleanly on the half wall.
Just over halfway through the period, the Blue Jackets finally broke through and got on the board thanks to Justin Danforth. Danforth hit double digits in goals when he poked home a loose puck from a point shot.
3-1 Pens (Danforth from Carlsson)
They nearly made it a one goal game on the next shift, but DeSmith robbed Gus Nyquist on a glorious chance off of a turnover. It looked like the Jackets were starting to gain the momentum, but that was halted when Cole Sillinger got called for a hooking penalty.
On consecutive penalty kills the Blue Jackets created a golden chance, with Roslovic going to the net, but was unable to finish. Elvis then came up with a huge glove save on Malkin just seconds later. Overall, it was another strong kill by the PK units.
Elvis was definitely a stabilizer after the rough start, making a series of strong saves with five minutes remaining in the period to keep his team alive.
Despite Merzlikins’ heroic efforts, the Penguins added to their lead in the dying minutes of the period adding a pair of goals in rapid succession. Kris Letang scored the Penguins fourth goal when he crept in from the point unnoticed on the weak side and easily beat Elvis. It appeared Yegor Chinakhov was late noticing Letang pinching in. Pretty much immediately after, Pittsburgh poured on another, with Brian Boyle scoring off a deflected point shot.
4-1 Pens (Letang from McGinn and Carter)
5-1 Pens (Boyle from Pettersson and Blueger)
The Jackets didn’t play a horrible period, but couldn’t convert on the majority of their chances, while the Penguins were able to add a couple goals late to bury the Jackets. The only question at this point, was if the Jackets would roll over and die in the last period of the season.
In a game that had already been decided, the Penguins were still looking to run up the score. Elvis Merzlikins stood tall on some strong scoring chances including another on Evgeni Malkin.
Carson Meyer blasted Teddy Blueger into the boards six minutes into the period, causing a ruckus. Once the dust settled, the Blue Jackets came out of it with their fourth power play opportunity. Oliver BJORKSTRAND added to his team leading goal total with his 28th of the year, sniping one top shelf over the glove of DeSmith. Gus Nyquist had a beautiful cross-zone pass to set up the goal for his 400th NHL point.
5-2 Pens (BJORKSTRAND from Voracek and Nyquist)
Five minutes later the Jackets had another chance on the power play, when Kasperi Kapanen went off for a trip. Once again, they were able to take advantage. This time it was Gus Nyquist tipping a Voracek shot home. The assist was Jake’s 800th NHL point.
5-3 Pens (Nyquist from Voracek and Bean)
The Jackets could smell some blood in the water, and just missed making it a one goal game. Kent Johnson, still in search of his first NHL goal, hit the post. Jake Voracek followed up with another opportunity that DeSmith was able to stop when he tried to go backhand all alone in front.
The Jackets finally had the momentum in the game on their side, but that was ended when Oliver BJORKSTRAND nearly sent Jake Guentzel to an early grave while disrupting a breakaway. Guentzel was bumped as he came in on Merzlikins, and in his attempt to avoid the Columbus goaltender, he sent himself head first into the cross-bar. It looked worse than it was, as it appeared Guentzel was able to brace himself prior to making contact. Bjorkstrand was assessed a roughing minor, effectively ending any chance at a miracle comeback.
The Jackets killed off the remaining penalty time, but there was just about a minute left once the penalty kill ended.
It was nice to see the Jackets respond and make the final period of the year interesting.
Final 5-3 Pens
We’re gonna miss hockey...