PENGUINS 2 | BLUE JACKETS 1
The Blue Jackets wanted to better manage the puck and stick to their game plan in their final meeting of the regular season against Pittsburgh. For the most part, they did just that and frustrated a Penguins club that has had its troubles scoring of late...but two quick goals created separation in the third period.
FINAL: JACKETS 1 | PENGUINS 2
Columbus wanted to wear down the Penguins, who played a physical game last night at home against Los Angeles, by getting the puck in deep behind their defense and working their cycle below the hashmarks. They created plenty of chances and shots on goal (the Jackets out-shot Pittsburgh 21-18 through two periods), but couldn't beat Marc-Andre Fleury until late in the third period.
Chris Kunitz and Beau Bennett scored goals 47 seconds apart in the third period to stake the Penguins to a 2-0 lead, forcing the Blue Jackets to push it even harder down the stretch. Curtis McElhinney, starting in place of the ill Sergei Bobrovsky, was very good in net for the Jackets and did more than his share in keeping this game on even terms.
James Wisniewski finally broke the goose egg for Columbus with 3:06 to play, uncorking a heavy slap shot through traffic that Fleury never got a read on. The building was alive, the Jackets were back in it and they put on quite the push in the final minute, only to have Fleury and the Penguins close the door one more time.
Kunitz's goal was not a timely one for the Jackets, coming just a few minutes after a strong shift by the Dubinsky line in Pittsburgh territory. But the Penguins' second goal was a back-breaker that had a snowball effect for a few minutes, tilting the ice in favor of the visitors.
1. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY (PIT)
Fleury was the difference-maker for Pittsburgh tonight, racking up 35 saves and bailing his teammates out on several occasions, particularly while shorthanded.
2. CHRIS KUNITZ (PIT)
Kunitz was physical and fired the puck from just about everywhere (five shots), as he and linemate Sidney Crosby combined for 11 shots on the night.
3. JAMES WISNIEWSKI (CBJ)
A source of offense on the back end all night, Wisniewski played 24:21 with three shots on goal while drawing some tough assignments.
AT CAROLINA HURRICANES
SATURDAY, 7 P.M.