BLUE JACKETS 4 | PENGUINS 3
Did tonight’s game between the Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins feel like a playoff game?
“It was heated,” said Nick Foligno. “It was awesome.”
Much like their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series last spring, this game had a little bit of everything and kept the standing-room only crowd of 18,663 on its feet for most of the third period and beyond.
Goals from Cam Atkinson and Ryan Johansen in the shootout and two saves by Sergei Bobrovsky locked up the Blue Jackets’ sixth win in a row, and boy, did they have to earn this one.
Columbus carried a 1-0 lead late into the second period before former Blue Jackets forward Blake Comeau scored on a rising wrist shot from a sharp angle at 15:06, leveling the game at 1-1 and finally giving the Penguins fans in attendance something to cheer about. There were close calls, great saves, a handful of fights and vehement disagreements, all which helped set the stage for a memorable third period between two teams that have no love lost for each other.
Kris Letang scored his first of two third-period goals shorthanded at 7:22, taking advantage of an ill-advised pinch and going backhand-shelf on a 2-on-1.
The Blue Jackets’ response - something they needed to do many times in the playoffs against these Penguins - sent an emphatic message as both teams went toe-to-toe down the stretch.
Boone Jenner was hauled down on a breakaway by Penguins defenseman Simon Despres with 7:55 left in regulation, and referee Francis Charron pointed to center ice, signaling a penalty shot.
Jenner moved in with speed, pulled up and snapped a quick shot low to the blocker side on Thomas Greiss, giving the Blue Jackets a shot in the arm and tying the game 2-2.
And late in the third period, Brandon Dubinsky set up Jack Johnson for the go-ahead goal with the teams skating 4-on-4. Dubinsky entered the zone, found Johnson roaring in down the left side and Johnson smoked his second goal of the season top shelf over Greiss to give Columbus the lead with 2:11 left.
The Blue Jackets hung on for dear life as the Penguins poured it on with Greiss on the bench for an extra attacker, but they needed one play to force overtime. Evgeni Malkin with the offensive zone face-off and Christian Ehrhoff teed up Letang for a wicked one-timer with 10.9 seconds left…and that wasn’t all the Jackets had to weather before all was said and done.
They had to kill off an Atkinson hooking penalty in overtime, and Bobrovsky did some of his finest work with his team facing a 4-on-3 Pittsburgh power play. In the shootout, he stopped Malkin and Brandon Sutter to make Johansen’s sick shootout goal stand as the game-deciding tally.
The Blue Jackets didn't blink after giving up the shorthanded goal to Letang, which could have been a dagger on many other nights this season. But the way things are going right now, they were able to shrug it off and turn the game around with two late third-period goals to take the lead for the second time. Yes, the Penguins were able to fight back and get a late equalizer, but after the Jenner and Johnson goals, this felt like a game in which the Blue Jackets were destined to pick up two points.
at Detroit Red Wings
Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Joe Louis Arena