An early hole was too much to overcome as the Blue Jackets (35-24-3) lost 5-2 on Tuesday night vs. visiting Pittsburgh (33-22-8) in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena.
Game in a Paragraph
In front of a crowd ready to see the new-look Blue Jackets in the first game after the trade deadline, Pittsburgh served as rude guests as the Penguins build a 3-0 lead early in the second period. Columbus fought back into the game with goals 2:14 apart to make it a one-goal game going to the third, but Pittsburgh survived the Jackets' early push in the third and got an insurance goal late followed by an empty-netter.
Video: Tortorella on switching the lines in the 2nd period
Quote of the Game
Head coach John Tortorella: "Throughout the game I don't think we developed enough offense. Certainly the first period we didn't develop any forechecking. I don't think we gave them much, but we certainly didn't develop enough forechecking, which leads to us not developing enough offense."
- Cam Atkinson scored his 35th goal of the season, tying a career high established two years ago, and has now tallied in three straight games.
- Oliver Bjorkstrand notched his 12th goal of the season and his second in three games.
After a choppy start for both sides, Pittsburgh put two on the board in the last seven minutes of the first to end the Jackets' shutout streak at more than 140 minutes.
It was Jackets killer Jake Guentzel who made it 1-0 at 13:45, as he skated into a nice feed from Sidney Crosby in the slot and quickly fired over Bobrovsky's glove.
Columbus then had a goal disallowed after it appeared to tie it with 4:44 left in the period. In the midst of a strong shift, Nick Foligno skated behind the net with the puck and fed Seth Jones at the right point, and he fired past Matt Murray, but video review showed Murray getting tangled up with Boone Jenner in the crease and the goal was taken off the board.
Momentum took another decided step in the Penguins' direction as Pittsburgh made it 2-0 with 1:28 left in the frame. Jared McCann beat Bobrovsky, who was screened, clean past the glove from the slot.
Before the period was over, new Jackets defenseman Adam McQuaid would rock Pittsburgh's Bryan Rust in the corner, and Rust limped off to the locker room after both players were shaken up. Rust would not return while McQuaid missed some time early in the second.
"Kind of an awkward hit and fall for both of us," McQuaid said. "I haven't seen it, but it felt that way."
Pittsburgh then made it 3-0 just 1:15 into the second as Evgeni Malkin scored. It was an innocent-enough looking play as he fired it on net softly from the left point, but the puck hit Seth Jones in front and deflected by Bobrovsky.
"We dominated after that," captain Nick Foligno said. "It's just hard down 3-0. 2-0 is one thing. 3-0 is hard to come back from. And we had the chances."
As Foligno said, Columbus got one back at 4:55 to make it 3-1 as Bjorkstrand scored on a delayed penalty after Patric Hornqvist caught Jones up high with a stick. Jones kept possession of the puck and found Scott Harrington, who carried it up and passed to Ryan Dzingel. The new Jacket's no-look pass found Bjorkstrand going into the zone, and his quick release from the left side went over Murray's glove and in.
Video: PIT@CBJ: Bjorkstrand goes top shelf to beat Murray
It was 3-2 shortly thereafter as Atkinson scored on the power play at 7:09. Artemi Panarin fired a one-time slap shot from the left circle but it went off Justin Schultz to Atkinson along the low right side, and he fired a quick-trigger shot past Murray before he could get over.
Video: PIT@CBJ: Atkinson buries shot from circle for PPG
The Jackets weren't able to get the tying goal the rest of the period, but the temperature continued to rise as the game turned more and more physical.
Columbus had a trio of near goals within the first few minutes of the third, helped by a power play for the first 1:48, but could not knot the game. Foligno pinged the crossbar off a feed from Atkinson in close, then Matt Duchene and Atkinson had a 2-on-0 after a Pens turnover but Atkinson's return pass was behind Duchene and he couldn't score. Finally, Riley Nash crashed the crease with a rebound sitting there, but Schultz just barely got his stick in the way and the shot went over the bar.
"They get a little momentum off their PK when we didn't get a goal there," Bjorkstrand said. "We had a few good chances there but just couldn't tie it up."
Pittsburgh found its footing after surviving that flurry, and the Pens made it 4-2 with 6:33 left. It was McCann again, as he created an odd-man rush with the Jackets pressing and beat Bobrovsky low blocker.
Columbus' best chance came shorthanded with 1:20 left as Atkinson was open for a feed at the post, but Murray got over and stuck out the right pad to make an incredible stop to preserve the lead. Crosby's empty-net goal sealed the deal.
By the Numbers
Columbus scored a power-play goal for the second straight game after going six games without one. … Atkinson's eight power-play goals leads the Blue Jackets. … Panarin earned his 100th assist as a Blue Jacket. … Zach Werenski has assists in three straight games. ... Columbus held the Penguins to 0-2 on the power play and has now killed 53 of the last 57 opposing power plays. … The game was the 400th of Jenner's Blue Jackets career. … Guentzel now has four goals vs. the Jackets this year and 12 goals in 14 career games vs. Columbus. … Pittsburgh has won seven straight regular-season games in the series. ... Murray had 21 saves while Bobrovsky had 22.
Columbus inserted new acquisitions Dzingel and McQuaid into the lineup in place of the traded Anthony Duclair and Dean Kukan (healthy scratch). Other scratches included Alexander Wennberg, Markus Hannikainen, Lukas Sedlak and newly acquired goalie Keith Kinkaid.
The Blue Jackets continue their five-game homestand Thursday night when division rival Philadelphia comes to Nationwide Arena for a 7 p.m. start.