There were a couple of prevailing and undeniable themes in tonight’s game between the Blue Jackets and Penguins, their first meeting of the season at Nationwide Arena.
First: Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular in goal for Pittsburgh, as he’s been for most of the season.
Second: the energy inside the barn was outstanding, as loud and rocking as it’s been since opening night.
The Blue Jackets needed a while to overcome the first item, and the second item propelled them the rest of the way in a 2-1 overtime victory. It’s the second straight win for Columbus, and in the process, it’s only allowed two goals.
On this occasion, the home team again had the better of play and took it to the Penguins right from the opening face-off. Fleury held his team in the fight, making 15 first period saves – a total that included some unbelievable stops.
The Blue Jackets’ forecheck was the catalyst behind those opportunities, led by Brandon Dubinsky’s line with Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson (more on them in a minute).
At the other end, Sergei Bobrovsky was sensational again. He made 25 saves and looked completely in control as the Blue Jackets went to work in the offensive zone, where they spent a lot of time in this game.
It required 3-on-3 overtime to get the job done for the first time this season (23 games later), and in sudden death, Dubinsky made it all happen. With the puck at the left point, he surveyed his options, swooped through the slot and down the side of the net, out-waited a defenseman and found Atkinson at the left dot, wide open for a one-timer.
Atkinson, who’s had plenty of grade-A chances the last few games, slammed it into the empty cage, sending the sold-out crowd of 18,205 into a thunderous roar and giving Columbus a huge extra point.
“It was nice to finally bury one, and get a win,” Atkinson said. “It feels good.”
Evgeni Malkin, guilty of a couple frustration penalties earlier in the game, scored the game’s opening goal on the power play 9:15 of the third period. A wild sequence in the Blue Jackets zone resulted in a bouncing puck, perhaps a goal post (?) and then Sidney Crosby finding Malkin for the put-back.
The lead lasted less than three minutes, but Ryan Johansen’s equalizer was challenged by Penguins coach Mike Johnston – a challenge he would eventually lose. The Penguins thought Scott Hartnell interfered with Fleury, but after a semi-lengthy review, the call on the ice of “good goal” was upheld.
Columbus out-shot Pittsburgh 37-24 in regulation and 5-2 in overtime. The fifth and final was Atkinson’s game-winner, which provided a fitting end to a game the Blue Jackets felt had the appropriate outcome.
“I don’t know if you practice that – how do you practice that?” coach John Tortorella said post-game. “There’s a couple things you can deal with, but I think you have to just let ‘em play.
“I thought we were good right on through. I thought we defended well. I thought it was a game we deserved to win.”