Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at CONSOL Energy Center.
With the way the Pens have struggled lately, allowing the first goal so early (just 5:41 into the game) could have been backbreaking – especially since their lack of resiliency has been a big problem. They’ve tended to let momentum get away from them when they’ve faced adversity in games, but tonight, they didn’t. The guys responded the right way when Columbus struck first. They didn’t get discouraged, continued to play their game and bided their time until they got their first power play opportunity in the second period – and capitalized on it. From there, they never looked back.
2. SPECIAL TEAMS
After allowing both goals in the Pens’ 2-1 loss to Carolina in their last game, the penalty kill came up big when the team needed it most. They were tasked with counting down 1:24 minutes of a 5-on-3 Columbus power play down 1-0 and with one of their best PKers, Matt Cullen, in the box for that sequence. But even with their recent shorthanded struggles, the guys delivered. Nick Bonino was especially noticeable, coming up with a big block and clear, while Ben Lovejoy made a tremendous play to intercept a cross-crease pass and shoot it down the ice, thwarting what would have likely been a goal. I felt that kill was absolutely the turning point in the game. Oh, and the power play was tremendous as well, going 2-for-3 on the evening.
3. TEAM EFFORT
Overall, I thought this was just a tremendous team effort. A lot of players stepped up to break the Pens’ five-game winless streak and send them into the holiday break on a high note. The Pens’ most dangerous players were just that, as both Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel were threats every time they stepped on the ice and stepped up to lead the team with Sidney Crosby out with a lower-body injury. Rookie goalie Matt Murray came up with some big saves when needed to get his first NHL win and the D did a nice job in front of him blocking shots, especially on the penalty kill. And I thought Scott Wilson made a big impact in his first game of the year since being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He sprung Kessel for his breakaway goal with a phenomenal heads-up pass, immediately challenged Boone Jenner to fight when he took down Malkin with a knee-on-knee hit, and drew the penalty that led to the Pens’ fourth goal.