Tonight's game between the Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins had a little bit of everything. It was a fast-paced affair that saw two divisional opponents that don't like each other too much put all 200 feet of ice to good use. Ultimately, a Brandon Dubinsky goal sealed the deal, and the Jackets earned a 2-1 win in front of the second largest regular season crowd in Nationwide Arena history (19,188).
The Blue Jackets have yet to lose to the Penguins in regulation this season, and now sit at 37-15-5 on the season.
The first period was tenacious hockey with 26 shots between the two teams. Boone Jenner thought he had a goal early, but it was waved off after officials said the whistle had blown.
In the middle frame, Ryan Murray scored his second of the season to open the scoring before Ian Cole tied it just under five minutes later. Oliver Bjorkstrand thought he had the second Jackets' score late, but a delayed penalty call negated it. The two netminders wouldn't allow another goal in regulation.
In overtime, the Jackets were hemmed into their zone to start and couldn't get a change, but the trio of Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones drove down the ice and set up a quick touch pass to Dubinsky who skated into the zone and lifted the puck over Penguins goalie Matt Murray to win the game.
Video: Torts' reaction to the 2-1 OT win over Pittsburgh
"It was the result we wanted," Dubinsky said. "I thought we played hard. We always play tough games against these guys. I think we were a little nervy in the first period, we didn't win as many battles but in the second and third we started winning a lot more battles. It was a huge effort for us."
Sergei Bobrovsky faced 38 shots and 72 attempts tonight and turned all but one away.
Lukas Sedlak left the game after playing just 2:29 minutes due to a lower body injury.
Here's what we learned:
Communication is key
Dubinsky, Atkinson and Jones played the entire 64 seconds of overtime tonight and earned the game winner, but they weren't so organized in their play to start. Dubinsky described it as "helter skelter." The Jackets players got caught looking at each other rather than at their opponents. So Dubinsky took it upon himself to talk to Jones and Atkinson and make sure everyone knew who they were covering.
"Communication is so big," Jones said. "When they got back in the zone the second time, Dubinsky yelled at me and Cam and said 'we've got to talk, communicate!' I think that calmed us down, put a little poise in our defense and put us in man-on-man coverage. We got the puck from there. That's what we need from a leader like Dubinsky when things aren't going our way."
Video: Seth Jones after the OT win against Pittsburgh
Win the battles and you'll win the game
Of the three periods of regulation play tonight, the Jackets described the first as their weakest. They were out attempted by Pittsburgh 28-23 and didn't win many of the one-on-one battles away from the puck.
"Our intensity was there but we were getting ourselves out of position and losing battles because we were so wound up," Dubinsky said. "We were able to calm things down out there and play two really good periods."
In the final 41 minutes, the team found their footing. They would end the night having won 63% of the faceoffs, and up and down the lineup, players were hard on the puck and hard on the boards.
"Both teams played hard, played honest," John Tortorella said. "I thought we stuck with it. The first period was a bit of a struggle for us. One thing Pittsburgh doesn't get enough credit for...is that they win a lot of one-on-one battles. That where I was really happy after the first period. I thought we really started turning that around. It gave us a chance to get back in the flow of the game."
Video: Dubinsky after the OT win against Pittsburgh
Tonight's win marked just the second time the Jackets have had back-to-back wins in the 21 games since the 16-game win streak ended. But it was the fourth game in a row the team has been pleased with how they played. Tortorella has described this part of the season as "the dog days", and the Jackets appear to be regaining the motivation to play the way they want to game in and game out.
"We're starting to play the right way consistently," Dubinsky said. "We talked about this all year. It's a long season, and we went through a period there where we weren't playing out best hockey. I think we're back to playing the way we want to and we're getting results because of it."