The Blue Jackets finished their preseason schedule Saturday in Pittsburgh. Backed by a shutout performance from two-time Vezina winner, Sergei Bobrovsky, and goals by Matt Calvert, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Artemi Panarin the Jackets headed back to Columbus with a 3-0 win in hand.
You could feel how close the regular season is in so many ways. It was a matchup against a Metro Division opponent, had good pace, and the rosters were full of NHL-level talent.
With few stoppages and no penalties early, the first period went by at a steady clip before the Jackets capitalized.
16:19 in, Pierre-Luc Dubois streaked into the offensive zone and took the puck from Brain Dumolin before battling to keep control from Kris Letang and then backhanding a pass to Matt Calvert. Calvert fired from the low slot to score the first goal of the game and give the Jackets a 1-0 lead.
18 seconds later, off a Pittsburgh turnover, the Jackets moved the puck around the perimeter of the zone before Jack Johnson sent a shot towards the net from the far left circle. Oliver Bjorkstrand deflected the puck past Matt Murray to make it 2-0.
Things slowed down in the second period. The two teams put up eight shots apiece, and, while special teams got a little more action, pucks stayed out of both nets.
The Jackets killed off a David Savard interference penalty. The Penguins fought through three penalty kills of their own.
Early in the third, the Jackets thought they added a third goal. As players clustered around the Penguins' net, there were more than a few whacks at the puck and it ended up under Murray who slid into the net. But the call on the ice was "no goal," a ruling that was confirmed by video review.
But when Greg McKegg took a double minor penalty for high-sticking Dubois, the Jackets found that third goal after all. The team struggled to set up in the offensive zone at first, but with just over one minute of special teams play remaining, Nick Foligno got the puck to Cam Atkinson in front of the net. Atkinson fired a pass to Artemi Panarin in the left circle and his shot did not fail. The score was 3-0 Jackets, a tally that would end as the final score.
Sergei Bobrovsky, who has described the preseason as a process of getting ready for the regular season, was outstanding. Through penalty kills and against breakaways and odd-man rushes, he turned away all of the 21 shots he faced.
The Jackets finish the preseason with a 4-3-1 record. The next time the team takes to the ice, the roster will be set with 23 players who will start the NHL season as Blue Jackets ready to take on the 82 games that await.
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By the numbers:
0: The number of goals allowed by Sergei Bobrovsky.
5: Three Blue Jackets earned five points in the preseason to tie for the team's point leader overall: Artemi Panarin (1-4-5, 4 GP), Pierre-Luc Dubois (3-2-5, 6 GP) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (3-2-5, 6 GP).
6: Number of days until the Blue Jackets' 2017-18 season opener at Nationwide Arena. They play the New York Islanders.
1: Saturday was the first game for Brandon Dubinsky this preseason. In 15:38 of ice time, he had five shot attempts and six hits.
"What they said."
Pierre-Luc Dubois on how he feels about his play "I feel good. Tonight was a good game against a good team. I'm getting more and more confident. This is our last game so we'll just keep going. (The coaches) have said to just do my thing and play with my instincts."
Brandon Dubinsky on playing in his first exhibition game: "It was fun, it's been a long camp especially for me. I've done a lot of extra skating and battling while these guys we're playing games and that's the most fun, is playing games. It was nice to get back in there with these guys. Especially the last one before the season gets going."
John Tortorella on Alexander Wennberg's evolution as a player: "He's stepped right in and he's done some great things. He's growing. And he's still so young. He's maturing. It's exhibition season, but I think playing with (Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin), I think it's going to do nothing but help his game. But he's going to have to shoot the puck too."
Tortorella on Bobrovksy's 21-save shutout performance: "The best part of our game was that Bob had his best game of the preseason. Going out of this and going into the regular season, it's encouraging."
Dubinsky on how his wrist feels: "I don't think I'd be playing tonight if it was even an issue. Come regular season, I'll be good to go."