PITTSBURGH – He did not get to practice yesterday with his new teammates (Jeff Carter’s physical in Los Angeles had yet to take place, therefore the trade was not official), but Jack Johnson traveled with the Blue Jackets to Pittsburgh and jumped right into the lineup this afternoon.
Playing alongside fellow American James Wisniewski on Columbus’ second defense pairing, Johnson logged 23:29 of ice time in a 4-2 win for the Penguins, but his contributions and skill on the back end could be seen right from the outset.
He’s cool under pressure and made several excellent breakout passes to his forwards, enabling the Blue Jackets to start their transition game quicker.
“It felt great to get out there with the guys and put the uniform on for the first time,” Johnson said. “Obviously, you want to win your first one but I’m in this for the long haul, and this team’s in it for the long haul.
“Their power play made the difference in the game, and special teams was the difference. We did do some really good things out there, but we have to do a better job on the penalty kill.”
Johnson confirmed that Evgeni Malkin’s game-tying goal late in the second period glanced off his foot before it snuck in the far post.
“I guess when you’re hot, you’re hot, right?” Johnson said.
SANDMAN STANDS TALL IN DEFEAT
Making his first start for the Blue Jackets since Feb. 9 vs. the Dallas Stars, Curtis Sanford made 36 saves on the afternoon and was huge for Columbus – especially in the opening period. He made a handful of key stops on Jordan Staal, James Neal and Pascal Dupuis to keep the Penguins off the board in the opening 20 minutes, allowing Columbus a chance to regroup during the first intermission.
The Blue Jackets played a much better second period, got a lead on Rick Nash’s shorthanded goal and had the better of the play until Malkin evened the score. Most of that could be credited to Sanford.
“Those things happen,” Sanford said of a bad bounce on the Penguins’ first goal. “But good teams find a way to get bounces. It was kind of the same thing on their third goal…it was kind of bouncing around and the same on their fourth.
“They looked like they were a little hungrier on a couple of plays, and that was the difference.”
Sanford’s rebound control was a big factor in keeping the Penguins at bay as long as he did. He did not allow many second or third opportunities to Pittsburgh forwards around the net, which is an area in which they generate a lot offense with big bodies like James Neal and Chris Kunitz.
“I thought that through two periods I was keeping the team in the game and we were giving ourselves a chance to win,” he said. “The second goal was unfortunate, and when you give up that one and give them a power play after that, it makes it pretty difficult.”
RICHARDS: NEED BETTER PUCK MANAGEMENT
Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards said despite the shots on goal margin in the first period, he liked how his team competed and kept most of the Penguins shots to the perimeter and gave Sanford the chance to make the saves.
With the score tied 1-1 heading into the third period, Richards did not like how the Blue Jackets turned the puck over and gave the Penguins additional time with the puck.
“There’s little respect when we have the puck on our stick,” Richards said. “When we need the puck to go deep or just execute a play… turnovers fed into the momentum of the game and fed their offense.
“They eventually score goals (that way). At a 1-1 game, it could have gone either way. Mismanagement of the puck led to their goals. It was our own doing.”