Assistant coach Gary Agnew gives his three impressions from the booth of the Penguins’ 2-1 loss to Columbus.
1. I thought Marc-Andre (Fleury) gave us a chance to win, particularly in the five-on-three late in the game. That was big.
2. The shorthanded goal against, the game-wnner, you can’t let that happen. A couple of mistakes and all of a sudden it’s in the back of your net.
3. The offensive side of the game, we have to find a way to get to more rebounds, win more board battles, win more stick battles and win more puck races.
Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box.
1. The Pens struggled against Columbus’s forecheck in their first meeting when the Blue Jackets came at them aggressively, chased them behind the net as they tried to set up, and bogged them down with speed and physicality. They did that again tonight, and ended up trapping the Pens down in their end for stretches. The Pens needed to be better when it came to winning races and battles for loose pucks and they also needed to be cleaner on their breakouts. The Blue Jackets dominated in that area as well. Columbus was just clinical when it came to getting the puck out of their zone. They would make one or two quick, short, hard tape-to-tape passes to guys going with speed and would be gone the other way. The Pens didn’t come out of their end with speed enough times. They made a lot of east-west passes instead of going north-south as a tight five-man unit or relied on one guy to try and do it all himself.
2. Sidney Crosby and Brandon Dubinsky have been going head-to-head for a while, and the rivalry that heated up during last year's playoffs finally boiled over tonight in the second period. Dubinsky laid a late hit on Crosby in the corner after the play was already going the other way and then pinned him into a DDT (a wrestling move where one person puts another into a front headlock and then falls backward so the other has to fall forward). Crosby had enough and the two dropped the gloves. Crosby, who’s been in a few fights before, held his own and got a couple haymakers in. For the second straight game there was a lot of raw emotion in the building as the crowd roared in support. But as head coach Mike Johnston said, the Pens responded to the display of emotion by their captain, but not enough.
3. The game was tied when Crosby and Dubinsky fought, but the Blue Jackets could have had a big lead at that point if it weren’t for Marc-Andre Fleury. The Pens came out slow and the Jackets took advantage of it. There’s at least four highlight-reel saves I can think of from the first period alone, including one snazzy glove save on a textbook tip from Scott Hartnell. The Pens asked far too much of their goaltender – which has become a bad habit lately – but he bailed them out by coming up with the tough stops and played his heart out. The excellent work didn’t stop there. Fleury was just unreal when the Blue Jackets had a lengthy 5-on-3 power play about midway through the third. He made incredible save after incredible save, and when it was finally over and there was a stoppage in play, all five skaters on the ice skated down to tap him on the pads to thank him. Fleury is doing absolutely everything he can to keep his team in games, and the guys in front of him HAVE to start doing more to help him out. They owe him that. Three goals in the past three games isn't close to enough.