POST GAME ON THE ROAD presented by:
PITTSBURGH – The Blue Jackets took advantage of a poor second period by the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it was not enough to offset two strong periods by the home team to open and close the hockey game.
Pittsburgh finished the opening 20 minutes with a 15-5 shots on goal advantage, but Curtis Sanford was mammoth in goal for Columbus. He made 36 saves on the afternoon, but a second-period shorthanded goal by Rick Nash could not get the Blue Jackets going. The Penguins picked up a 4-2 win before a sold-out crowd at CONSOL Energy Center this afternoon, earning their third consecutive victory. Goalie Brad Thiessen, on emergency recall from Wilkes-Barre (AHL), got the win in his first career NHL start.
Nash’s team-leading 21st tally of the year was a short-term boost for the Blue Jackets, who spent most of the first period in their own zone. Nikita Nikitin picked up a loose puck after Kris Letang blindly threw it back to the point, and the lead pass found Nash all alone for a breakaway goal on Thiessen at 9:49 of the middle frame.
James Neal was the recipient of a fortunate Penguins bounce as the puck looked to be leaving the Blue Jackets end, and he fed Evgeni Malkin across the zone late in a Pittsburgh power play. Malkin’s wrister from the right circle beat Sanford far-post for his 37th of the season and a 1-1 tie at 19:12 of the second.
Pascal Dupuis scored the go-ahead goal at 5:50 of the third as he elected not to cycle the puck, walked out to the right circle and fired a shot through Sanford’s legs to make it 2-1. After Chris Kunitz had a pair of goals disallowed minutes later (one for a distinct kicking motion, the other for incidental contact with the goaltender), Letang’s slap shot found the long side at 10:47 for a 3-1 lead.
Joe Vitale and Vinny Prospal (his 11th of the season) traded goals just 10 seconds apart – the latter coming at 15:07 of the third period – to close the margin to 4-2.
Malkin has shown of late that he can take over a game, and while he didn’t do that, he certainly awakened the Penguins as the second period came to a close. Neal’s pass was on the money and Malkin ripped his shot inside the post, inciting a roar from the crowd at CONSOL. The Blue Jackets had a great response after the goal and put together strong shifts to close the period, but as the game wore on, it was clear that Malkin’s goal made a big difference for Pittsburgh.
Nash scored his first shorthanded goal since scoring shorthanded goals in back-to-back games Oct. 17-20, 2009, a span of 205 games. He has goals in three of the last four games after being held to one the previous 10 games. He has points in eight of the last 11 games (4-6-10), while collecting 8-8-16 the last 23 games and 17-14-31 the last 44 games. In 10 career games against Pittsburgh, he has 5-5-10.
Nikitin picked up an assist on Nash’s goal, his 18th of the season. He has set career highs in goals (2), assists, points (20) and games played (41-tied), bettering his marks of 1-8-9 set in 41 games last season. He has points in six of the last eight games, with 1-5-6 during that stretch after being held to 0-1-1 the previous seven games.
Prospal snapped a seven-game goalless skid with his 11th of the season today. He had last scored Feb. 9 vs. Dallas. He has points in seven of the last 12 games, recording 2-7-9 during that stretch after being held pointless the previous nine games. In 51 career games against the Penguins, he has tallied 12-19-31.
Cam Atkinson recorded the assist on Prospal’s goal. It was the first assist of his career, coming in his seventh career NHL game.
vs. Detroit Red Wings
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com