Ryan Murray donned an NHL sweater for the first time tonight, and to celebrate, he scored the game-winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Not a bad way to start, right?
BLUE JACKETS 5, PENGUINS 4 (OT)
It was an eventful game at Nationwide Arena with both teams trading the lead and trying to establish some flow in their first exhibition games of the season. The Blue Jackets, on the strength of two quick third-period goals from Mark Letestu and Cam Atkinson, took a 4-3 lead into down the stretch only to see the Penguins answer right back - setting the stage for a frenetic overtime period.
And it was finished off by a smart, heady play by the 19-year-old kid on defense. RJ Umberger beat out Evgeni Malkin for a loose puck at the Columbus blue line, started an odd-man rush with Letestu going to the net and found Murray joining the rush in the final 30 seconds of sudden death.
One look, one shot, top shelf, ballgame. The Blue Jackets, as coach Todd Richards put it, "found a way to win" despite not having their best stuff in the first 40 minutes of the game. They were out-shot 26-12 by the Penguins over the first two periods but managed a pair of goals out of it, and got back to their preferred style in the third period.
They directed more pucks at the net, used their speed and defended much better in the final stanza and got a strong performance in goal from Curtis McElhinney. Pittsburgh opened the scoring just 47 seconds into the game on a James Neal goal, but after that, McElhinney held the fort before giving way to Oscar Dansk for the third period.
Sure, it's one game and an exhibition at that, but there were some highlights contained within it. Murray's game winner, two spirited scraps from James Wisniewski (Murray's defense partner) and newcomer Ilari Melart, and some persistence against a pretty good team.
1. MURRAY (CBJ)
The game-winning goal, top-four minutes against the Penguins' top line, and he got better as the game went on. Richards said "there's a lot to be excited about" with Murray but there's still plenty of room for improvement, and he thinks the sky's the limit for the young blueliner.
2. WISNIEWSKI (CBJ)
Power play goal, assist on the Letestu goal in the third period, and a no-doubt-about-it decision against Pittsburgh's Joe Vitale. Quite the night for "Wiz."
3. MCELHINNEY (CBJ)
He bounced back nicely after the early goal and was exceptionally strong while the Blue Jackets were shorthanded. A couple of flashy glove saves on Neal and Dumoulin in the second and third periods stood out.
Tuesday, Sept. 17
at Minnesota (8 p.m.)
vs. BUFFALO (7 p.m.)