The Blue Jackets continued the preseason Thursday night in Pittsburgh, where Columbus dropped a 4-1 final to the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
Game in a Paragraph
Facing a Pittsburgh team that played many of its top offensive threats, Columbus fell into holes of 1-0 and 2-1 before eventually giving up two goals in a 23-second span of the third period. The Blue Jackets' preseason record evened at 1-1.
- In his first-ever action in the Blue Jackets cage in a preseason game, goaltender Elvis Merzlikins performed well, stopping 17 of 18 shots against in just over 29 minutes of work.
- Sonny Milano continued what has been a productive start to camp, scoring his second goal of the preseason.
Video: Merzlikins describes his first preseason game
The lone goal of an opening period without a ton of great chances either way went to the Penguins, who scored on the power play at 6:28. With Markus Hannikainen in the box for hooking, Pittsburgh won the ensuing faceoff and worked the puck to Alex Galchenyuk all alone at the top of the left circle, and he ripped a wrist shot over the glove of Merzlikins.
Brandon Dubinsky fired just wide with a chance to tie it off a nice feed from Sonny Milano later in the first. It also stayed 1-1 when a failed clear led a chance for an onrushing Evgeni Malkin, but Merzlikins was game and made the stop.
The CBJ's Latvian netminder was also on his game to start the second, making nine saves in the first seven minutes of the period. His best was a full extension, side-to-side toe save on a Pittsburgh 2-on-1 on the first shift, as Evgeni Malkin saucered a perfect pass to Galchenyuk but Merzlikins got over to make the pad stop.
Merzlikins also had excellent stops in transition on Brandon Tanev and Jake Guentzel before being lifted at the 9:18 mark of the second for Veini Vehvilainen.
He also left with the score tied at 1, as Milano got the Jackets on the board at 7:58. Defenseman Anton Karlsson forechecked in deep to get the puck behind the net to Kevin Stenlund, who made a nice feed to Milano alone in front. The Blue Jacket made no mistake, firing a quick, hard shot past Murray to knot the game.
Video: CBJ@PIT: Milano buries Stenlund's sweet dish
But Pittsburgh left the second period up 2-1 thanks to a goal by Guentzel. The traditional CBJ killer got open alone in front, corralled a bouncing pass from Malkin and chipped the puck off Vehvilainen's shoulder and into the net.
Vehvilainen made a nice save on John Marino all alone in front late in the period, but his luck ran out in the early part of the third period as back-to-back goals by Nathan Legare 23 seconds apart gave Pittsburgh a 4-1 lead. The 18-year-old, who had 45 goals in the QMJHL last year, first fished a puck out of a battle after a faceoff and snuck it through Vehvilainen's legs at 6:03, then he was left alone in the slot for the second goal and beat the Jackets' Finnish goalie by the glove.
Columbus was unable to get anything going offensively from there and the Penguins finished off the win.
Six players played both Thursday night and in the preseason lid-lifter Tuesday - Emil Bemstrom, Stenlund, Brandon Dubinsky, Milano, Zac Dalpe and Vladislav Gavrikov. … Scott Harrington led the Blue Jackets with six shots on goal. … Murray played the entire game in the Pittsburgh net and made 26 saves on 27 Blue Jackets shots. … Vehvilainen, in his North American debut, made 14 saves on 17 shots. … Columbus finished 0-for-5 on the power play while Pittsburgh was 1-2.
Video: Nyquist talks about first game in union blue
The Blue Jackets used the following lines for the game.
Columbus hosts the Penguins on Saturday in preseason game No. 3 at 2 p.m.