We figured this would be an entertaining game.
Not to boast, but we were right.
Anytime the Blue Jackets and Penguins get together, it's expected to be a must-watch. This game, the second meeting of the season between two of the top teams in the Metropolitan Division, lived up to the billing. Both teams playing well. Both teams with confidence. Both teams wanting to put a dent in the other.
It was fun, even if the result wasn't perfect for the Blue Jackets.
They trailed twice by two goals but displayed the persistence that was lacking in recent games. They checked better. They played tighter together and didn't get out-of-structure too often, and it resulted in a tidier and more stress-free game. Down 3-1 after two periods at PPG Paints Arena, you just knew the Blue Jackets had one more thrust left in them.
And that they did.
Brandon Dubinsky's line with Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson led the way in the third. They were all around the net throughout the game and broke through at the ideal time; Atkinson's 25th of the season tied the game at 3-3 as the game hit the stretch run, following a goal from Alexander Wennberg early in the third that brought Columbus within one.
They'll take the point and move on - next up are the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night at Nationwide Arena.
"A real good third period to come back," coach John Tortorella said. "It's a really good point being down by a couple going into the third, but we wanted the second one. We have to leave here in a decent mood getting the point, but ready to move on to our next game, which is coming quickly."
Video: CBJ@PIT: Wennberg buries Saad's quick pass
Here's what we learned:
STICK WITH IT: For the better part of the game, this game was about as even as it could get. The Blue Jackets and Penguins each had 55 shot attempts at even strength, and the only power play in the game was awarded to the Penguins in overtime. They slugged it out for 60-plus minutes, and though the Penguins scored on an opportunistic basis, the Blue Jackets found a way to climb back into it. Particularly in the third period, they brought speed on the forecheck and established some territory in the offensive zone which led to some chances - and they got to the front of the net, scoring a pair of goals from close range in the third.
"I thought we got back to playing the way we need to play in order to be successful," Dubinsky said. "I'm happy with the character we showed; we came back and got a point, obviously we'd like to have two, but we'll come back and get ready for tomorrow."
Video: CBJ@PIT: Atkinson slams home Dubinsky's no-look pass
A GOOD STEP: Considering how disappointed the Blue Jackets were with the state of their game prior to the All-Star break, they're encouraged by this game and believe they're getting back on track with three points in two games since the schedule resumed. Two days of practice back in Columbus provided a good "reset," as Tortorella and the players called it, just to emphasize the finer points of their systems and structure that can slip over the course of a long season. Against a good team in their building, the Blue Jackets appeared to make some progress in that regard.
"I thought we were better. There was a lot of the game that I liked," Tortorella said. I think we need to finish on a couple of (the chances) like they did. I thought this was our better game than New York - we're going in the right direction."