PITTSBURGH -- In hockey, there are key moments that can change momentum in games and, as a result, impact the final outcome.
Sometimes, it’s hard to explain when, why and how the momentum suddenly shifts during a game, and other times it’s clear.
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has been preaching the importance of players recognizing momentum shifts, both up and down, during games and being better at managing those swings.
And that momentum-changing moment during last night’s game in Pittsburgh against the Penguins — a 5-on-3 in favor of the Blue Jackets — was glaringly obvious to Tortorella and his players.
“I thought we changed when we did squat on that 5-on-3,” Tortorella said after the game. “We just have to park that. It was a lousy 5-on-3, but you have to park that. We weren’t playing too bad up to that point.”
In fact, the Jackets started off strong and took a 1-0 lead, thanks to Alexander Wennberg at 5:41 of the first period, but the aforementioned turning point — according to Tortorella — came soon thereafter.
Columbus had a one-goal advantage over Pittsburgh when Evgeni Malkin earned two minutes in the penalty box for elbowing Blue Jackets defenseman Justin Falk.
And 36 seconds later, Matt Cullen joined Malkin in the box for slashing David Clarkson, and just like that the Jackets found themselves on a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:24.
One of the key items during the 5-on-3 was, in an attempt to into a more aggressive mindset, Tortorella did something new: he put five forwards on the ice.
With Wennberg and Cam Atkinson on the point, and Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Johansen and Scott Hartnell at or below the hashmarks, it was a big opportunity for the Blue Jackets with some of their top offensive people on the ice.
“We played 3-on-3 with three forwards the other night,” Tortorella said. “I want us to get into a mentality of attacking, and the two forwards I put on the back-end certainly didn’t stall that off, but there were some other people that did.”
Despite the great chance, the Blue Jackets were unable to capitalize on the two-man advantage, and Dubinsky agreed with Tortorella that it impacted the remainder of the game.
“Yeah, it wasn’t very good. That’s for sure,” Dubinsky said. “It didn’t help our momentum at all. Especially 5-on-3s, you've got your top five guys, (who) are supposed to be your top five guys out on the ice to try to score a goal there, and we didn’t get anything done. We didn’t execute. I don’t even know if we got a chance.”
The game changed quickly in the second period, and the Penguins tied the game and added on three more goals during that frame. The Penguins ultimately picked up two points in a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.
“We’ll try it again,” Tortorella said of playing all forwards during the power play. “And we have to get into an aggressive mindset. We did not develop enough offense tonight.”