PITTSBURGH – Less than an hour before an important divisional game against one of their rivals, the Blue Jackets found out they’d be without one of their top players.
Brandon Dubinsky did not take the ice for warm-ups at CONSOL Energy Center and was soon after ruled out with an upper body injury, leaving the Blue Jackets down a forward and needing to make some serious lineup changes.
Captain Nick Foligno moved to center (a position he’d played almost exclusively as a kid), Dalton Prout shifted from defense to fourth-line wing, and Ryan Murray, scheduled for a healthy scratch, had to scramble just to get his gear on in time for the warm-up.
Normal day, right?
It seemed to have a galvanizing effect on the Blue Jackets, who played a sturdy defensive game and frustrated the red-hot Penguins in a 2-1 victory. The win, their fifth of the season (5-12-0), is their fifth road victory as the team returns home Saturday night seeking its first home win of 2015-16.
“We found a way to get it done,” coach John Tortorella said. “I think it’s a really good answer after a really, really hard loss for those guys against Vancouver. It’s funny how it works…you lose a big guy who eats up a lot of minutes (Dubinsky) and guys are moved in and out of positions. I’m just happy the way they banded together – I thought we played really well as a team.”
Brandon Saad’s dazzling backhand goal in the second period – a power play goal, his fifth of the season – gave the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead. The goal stood as the game-winner, adding to a Scott Hartnell goal (which tied Boone Jenner for the team scoring lead with eight) that came only 1:41 earlier. The goal was Saad's first career tally against his hometown team.
Between goals, the Blue Jackets did fine defensive work to keep most of the Penguins’ offensive zone time on the perimeter, not allowing high-quality chances or dangerous counterattacking opportunities.
The best chances belonged to the visitors, who did well to exit the zone as five-man units and transition to offense in the same fashion.
The only real trouble for the Blue Jackets came in two forms: their penalty troubles (the Penguins had six power play opportunities, but Columbus went 6-for-6 on the kill) and a late third-period thrust from Pittsburgh. Down 2-0 in the final 90 seconds, the Penguins got Marc-Andre Fleury on the bench for an extra attacker and got a deflection goal from Patric Hornqvist at 19:08.
Hornqvist had a second goal, the potential tying goal, immediately disallowed with 13.8 seconds left in regulation. He went to the net, was denied initially on a rebound chance by Sergei Bobrovsky, and kicked in the second rebound.
After a brief review, the call on the ice stood and the Blue Jackets salted away the final seconds.
“Our defense played really well tonight,” Foligno said. “We were battling, we were good along the walls, and we made them play in their end. That’s how we play: we’re a hard, heavy, forechecking team…and to hold a high-offensive team to one goal and get a couple of our own, it says a lot about our team.”