This wasn’t the prettiest game by any means, but no matter if it’s exhibition or a Tuesday night in March, Blue Jackets vs. Penguins now has some added meaning.
Both players and coaches said as much today and there was evidence on the ice, as both teams scrapped their way through a feisty game at Nationwide Arena that had some promising story lines for the home team.
BLUE JACKETS 2 | PENGUINS 0
One of those story lines was the end result: a 2-0 win that moved the Blue Jackets to 3-0-0 in the preseason and they did so despite being out-shot 42-28 by the Penguins.
Another bright spot was Sergei Bobrovsky, who was making his first start of the preseason and he did not disappoint. The Penguins fired 15 shots in the first period and 15 more in the second period, and Bobrovsky was perfect throughout. He was replaced by Oscar Dansk for the third period in a pre-planned move, and Dansk stopped 12 shots in the third period to preserve the joint shutout.
Michael Chaput opened the scoring at 14:17 of the second period, finishing off a play at the side of the net that was born from Cam Atkinson’s wicked acceleration from the blue line in. Brian Dumoulin was caught off-guard and could only hope to catch up, but Chaput was left alone to clean up the rebound for a 1-0 lead.
And Chaput, whose name has gone somewhat-unspoken in the battle for open rosters spots in training camp, used a multi-point effort to thrust himself into the conversation.
“(Chaput) came up last year and was real good for us,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “He’s a guy who has flown under the radar a bit, but you watch him play tonight, and he’s put himself right on the map.”
Atkinson completed his own multi-point effort by hustling to chop in an empty-netter with 1:13 to play, capping off what was another strong exhibition performance for the 25-year-old speedster.
“He’s finishing, and he’s done that in the past,” Richards said of Atkinson. “When Cam’s going, it’s all about his speed. He creates separation and he did that on Chaput’s goal.”
Pinning down one specific turning point in this game is awfully difficult, but we’ll go with the Chaput goal in the second period. Until that point, the Penguins probably had the better of play but a couple good shifts back-to-back gave the Jackets some life. Atkinson’s quick burst and Chaput’s slick finish gave Columbus a lead it would not relinquish.
“For me, we spent too much time in our own zone,” Richards said. “Emotions started to play a part in this game, and you could feel it on the bench. Based on history, you could feel it. It felt like there was a little bit of hatred going both ways.”
1. Sergei Bobrovsky - He made 30 saves on 30 shots and was terrific in his preseason debut.
2. Michael Chaput - A goal and an assist for Chaput tonight, coupled with a solid performance on Sunday in Carolina, have him squarely in the mix for one of the Jackets’ last remaining roster spots.
3. Cam Atkinson - This was the Atkinson the Blue Jackets want to see on a nightly basis; fast, dangerous with the puck and making the defense uncomfortable.
at St. Louis Blues
Thursday, 8 p.m. ET