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FINAL: Penguins 7, Blue Jackets 2

Nyquist, Werenski score in Metropolitan Division setback

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The Blue Jackets fell to 0-2 on the young season with a 7-2 loss on Saturday night vs. Pittsburgh in PPG Paints Arena. 

Game in a Paragraph 

After a scoreless first period, things escalated quickly in the second, as the Penguins put five goals on the board sandwiched around a Zach Werenski goal. The Penguins added two more in the third before Gus Nyquist set the final score. Patric Hornqvist and Jared McCann each scored twice for Pittsburgh. 

Quote of the Game

Werenski: "In the first period there, there weren't too many chances. I think we were playing pretty good for the most part. Then they get a few goals, we try playing catch-up and I think we opened ourselves up. That's the kind of game they like to play, and they capitalized on their chances."

Quick Recap 

The opening frame was a relatively quick and quiet affair, with the teams at one point going 7:22 with no whistle. Neither team had a great scoring chance, though Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins did make a solid stop on Jake Gentzel in the frame. 

The Penguins took a 1-0 lead just 1:45 into the second period. Jack Johnson flung a puck at the net from the left point, and Hornqvist tipped it past Merzlikins from in front. It was 2-0, then, at 4:14, as Marcus Pettersson took a pass with time and space, skated to the top of the left circle and fired a shot that ticked Merzlikins' catching glove but went in. 

Columbus responded quickly, though, making it 2-1 at 6:45 to conclude a long shift in the zone. Nick Foligno made a nice feed to Riley Nash in front, and his shot was deflected right to Werenski, who scored past Matt Murray from in low. 

Video: CBJ@PIT: Werenski buries loose puck at the doorstep

But Pittsburgh answered exactly two minutes later, as McCann came in on a 2-on-1 and beat Merzlikins blocker side.  

After a fight between Pierre-Luc Dubois and Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh tallied to make it 4-1 at 15:23 of the second. It was McCann again on a 4-on-2 rush, as he fired past Merzlikins' blocker from the left dot. Then it was 5-1 with 1.2 seconds left in the period, with Kris Letang scoring from the right circle off a cross-ice feed.  

Pittsburgh made it 6-1 with 10:10 to go with another goal in transition as Sidney Crosby made a nice move to get it to Hornqvist in the right circle, and his quick shot got by Merzlikins to the far side. Teddy Blueger followed, beating his fellow Latvian Merzlikins at 11:58 to make it 7-1 with another goal in transition.  

Nyquist then make it a 7-2 game with 5:41 left, taking a feed from Nash all alone in front and scoring past Murray's blocker for his first CBJ goal.

Video: CBJ@PIT: Nyquist nets his first as a Blue Jacket

3 Takeaways

1. Head coach John Tortorella said there would come a time this season where the Blue Jackets would face adversity, and the key to getting out of it would be for the team to keep the swagger and confidence it's built through the past few seasons. That test could be now, as the team has been outscored 11-3 through its first two games. It's just two games, though, with 80 to go, and ringing any alarm bells would be a sign of panic more than anything else. "We're a (freaking) good team," Dubois said. "We just have to believe in it."

2. There's no getting around this: The team has to play a better game defensively than it did against the Penguins. Team members attributed that to losing patience and chasing the game once Pittsburgh took the lead, but it was frustrating that after the coaching staff talked through the preseason about limiting odd-man rushes, the Blue Jackets gave up quality opportunities in spades against the Pens. "They end up scoring a few goals and then we lose our composure as far as how we have to play," Tortorella said. "It just gives me a great opportunity to start teaching as far as what the patience of our game has to be."

3. The NHL debut of Merzlikins certainly wasn't what he had hoped, as he allowed seven goals on 40 shots. He said he's been in worse situations, and he's right, pointing to a 14-0 loss when he was in the Latvian net during a World Junior Championships game in 2011 vs. Russia. Merzlikins took most of the blame afterward -- "I am a grown man ... I should save the team," he said afterward -- but the Blue Jackets skaters did the same, too, expressing dismay at the number of chances the team gave up. "I don't think we gave him much help at all the last 20-25 minutes," Tortorella said. Merzlikins did make some quality saves, though, and the key will be to learn from the setback. 

Video: CBJ@PIT: Merzlikins, Savard keep puck out

Notable 

Murray finished with 28 saves on 30 Columbus shots on goal.. ... Columbus' regular-season losing streak in Pittsburgh increased to eight games. The Blue Jackets haven't won in Pittsburgh since Nov. 27, 2015. … The Blue Jackets fell to 0-2 for the first time since 2016-17. The team rebounded to win 50 of its last 80 games that year to set franchise records for wins and points. … Werenski now has 39 career goals, two behind the CBJ's all-time record for defensemen (Rostislav Klesla, 2001-11). … Columbus finished 0-1 on the power play while Pittsburgh was 1-4. ... The fight was Crosby's eighth of his career and first since 2015, while Dubois dropped the gloves for the fifth time in his career. … Penguins center Evgeni Malkin left the game with an apparent injury in the second period.

Roster Report 

Columbus made two changes to its playing roster, swapping in a pair of defensemen. Dean Kukan and Vladislav Gavrikov went into the lineup, while Scott Harrington and Markus Nutivaara were healthy scratches. 

Up Next 

Columbus will return to Nationwide Arena on Monday night to take on Buffalo at 7 p.m. - TICKETS

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