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Aftermath: Blue Jackets 4, Penguins 3

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Penguins’ winning streak had to end at some point – although the way they’ve been playing it seemed less like inevitability. Pittsburgh showed a lot of guts to transform a 3-0 third-period deficit into a 3-3 tie.

The Penguins lost in a shootout and probably feel fortunate to come away with a point considering that they were losing, 3-0, in the final period against a strong defensive team. But Pittsburgh deserved to win this game.

The team outplayed Columbus and dominated nearly the entire game. If it were not for the exceptional play of goaltender Steve Mason, the Penguins may have walked away with an easy victory. But the Penguins deserve credit for beating a lava-hot goaltender three times and netting an important point in the standings.

Penguins fans deserve a lot of credit for packing the Nationwide Arena. The standing room sell out of 19,167 was the largest announced crowd to see a hockey game in Columbus, and it sounded as if nearly half of them were Pittsburgh fans. Even Columbus head coach Ken Hitchcock noticed:

“The building wasn’t loud enough because we had folks in the wrong color sweater here, too many of them. The building was louder last game because we had all Blue Jackets’ fans. Somebody let in those other people today and it screwed up the sound level.”
(AP) - Kristian Huselius had a goal in regulation and the only shootout goal and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Thursday night after blowing a three-goal lead in the third period.

Steve Mason was victimized for three goals in a span of 3:25 of the last period, but stopped Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the shootout.
Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. Philadelphia 66 36-20-10 82
5. Montreal 68 36-24-8 80
6. Pittsburgh 69 36-26-7 79
7. NY Rangers 68 35-25-8 78
8. Carolina 70 36-28-6 78
9. Florida 68 34-25-9 77
10. Buffalo 68 34-27-7 75

Team Notables:
Buffalo: Defeated Florida, 3-1
Carolina: Lost to Dallas, 3-1
Florida: Lost to Buffalo, 3-1
Montreal: Lost in overtime to NY Islanders, 3-2
NY Rangers: Defeated Nashville, 4-2
Philadelphia: Lost to Washington, 2-1

Marc-Andre Fleury made a split, toe save against Columbus (photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Never Say Die
This seems to be a staple of the Dan Bylsma coached Penguins. This team just refuses to quit and go quietly into the night. Even when the Blue Jackets held a 3-0 lead, the Penguins never stopped coming after them. Pittsburgh was frustrated by goalie Steve Mason all night but the team finally broke through in the third and were rewarded for their persistence.

What Could Have Gone Better: Getting An Early Lead
The Penguins came out strong to start the game. Pittsburgh had a decisive advantage in scoring chances and shots in the early course of action. The Penguins should have been up 2-0 or 3-0 in the first period but Mason was phenomenal in goal for Columbus. The Penguins eventually broke through with an incredible comeback but life could have been easier on Pittsburgh if they’d converted early…but certainly not as entertaining.
Evgeni Malkin’s performance against Columbus was inspiring. He hustled, pressured the puck and even went hard to the net – twice resulting in collisions with the goal. Malkin made a spectacular play to setup the Penguins’ second goal from behind the Columbus net. Then he made a beautiful blind, backhand pass for the tying goal. Malkin finished with two assists, five shots and 22:33 minutes of ice time.
The Columbus Blue Jackets struck first in the game. Kristian Huselius took a pass entering the Penguins zone. He skated wide on Kris Letang to the near circle and threw a shot through the legs of Marc-Andre Fleury. Columbus 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Antoine Vermette made a great play to steal a puck behind the Pittsburgh goal. He then threw a centering pass to Jason Williams, who was between the hash marks. Williams’ backhand shot eluded Fleury. Columbus 2, Pittsburgh 0.

Williams had the puck near the far corner of the Pittsburgh zone and sent a pass to Vermette at the point. Vermette lit up a slap shot that blew past Fleury. Columbus 3, Pittsburgh 0.

Pittsburgh broke the shutout and got on the board with a power-play goal halfway through the third period. Chris Kunitz was positioned in his usual spot in front of the net. Sergei Gonchar took a pass at the far point, turned the puck over and sent a quick slap shot towards the goal. Kunitz got his blade on the puck to re-direct it behind Steve Mason. Columbus 3, Pittsburgh 1.

The Penguins struck again 1:20 after breaking the shutout. Evgeni Malkin stole Jiri Novotny’s attempted bank pass behind the Blue Jackets net. Malkin quickly guided the puck in front of the net. Pascal Dupuis alertly went backhand-forehand and buried a shot to cut into Columbus’ lead. Columbus 3, Pittsburgh 2.

Maxime Talbot completed the comeback with the Penguins’ third goal in 3:25 to tie the game. Sidney Crosby won a battle for the puck in the near corner against two Blue Jackets and pushed the puck ahead to Malkin. Malkin threw a blind, backhand pass to Talbot at the bottom of the near circle. Talbot one-timed a shot into the goal. Pittsburgh 3, Columbus 3.

Huselius opened the scoring with a shot through Fleury’s five-hole. He then finished the game with a score between the Penguins netminder’s legs for the only shootout conversion. Columbus 4, Pittsburgh 3.
Pittsburgh played without Petr Sykora for the third straight game. Sykora is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

Marc-Andre Fleury made the best save of the season for Pittsburgh in the second period. R.J. Umberger took a shot on goal from the side of the crease. The puck hit Fleury’s pad and settled in the paint. Umberger backhanded his rebound towards what appeared to be a vacant net. However, Fleury made a split, glove save to absolutely steal a goal. Umberger even raised his arms thinking he had a goal…he was wrong.

Fleury made another point-stealing save with 11.3 seconds left in regulation. Michael Peca took a point-blank slap shot from the slot. Fleury just got his arm on the puck to prevent the socre.

For what it’s worth, the Penguins should have won this game in overtime. Chris Kunitz’s shot early in the extra frame hit right off the post. Then some tic-tac-toe passing set up Kris Letang for a cross-ice one-timer. However, Steve Mason made a split save and disrupted the shot with his blocker.
> Pittsburgh record is now 36-26-7 on the year, with an 18-14-5 mark on the road, and is 7-0-1 in its last eight games.

> Pittsburgh is 9-1-2 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach. They were 8-1-1 in his first 10 games behind the bench, the best start through 10 games for a Penguins head coach in franchise history (Herb Brooks, 7-2-1).

> Scoring Summary:
CBJ, K.Huselius (19), 8:42 1st period: Blue Jackets 1, Penguins 0
CBJ, J.Williams (15), 16:59 2nd period: Blue Jackets 2, Penguins 0
CBJ, A.Vermette (10), 1:03 3rd period: Blue Jackets 3, Penguins 0
PIT, S.Gonchar PP (4), 8:33 3rd period: Blue Jackets 3, Penguins 1
PIT, P.Dupuis (10), 9:53 3rd period: Blue Jackets 3, Penguins 2
PIT, M.Talbot (10), 11:58 3rd period: Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 3
SO, K.Huselius (winner)

> Evgeni Malkin tallied two assists against Columbus to increase his NHL lead in points to 97 (30G-67A). Malkin’s 67 assists are a league-best and a new single-season career high. He has tallied 30-plus goals in three straight seasons.

> Malkin has points in 11 of his 12 games for 16 points (6G-10A).

> Sidney Crosby recorded two assists against the Blue Jackets. He is third in the league in scoring with 86 points (26G-60A) and his 60 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 67. Crosby has an eight-game scoring streak, tallying 14 points (5G-9A) over that span.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves against Columbus. He’s won nine win of his past 11 games and made his 17th straight start.

> Chris Kunitz scored a power-play goal against the Blue Jackets. He has a three-game scoring streak (1G-2A) and has points in eight of his last nine games (5G-5A). The goal was also Kunitz’s 200th career point.

> Pascal Dupuis snapped a two month and 24-game goal-less drought with his tenth goal of the season. 

Maxime Talbot scored a goal against the Jackets. He has four goals in his last 11 games.

> A record 19,167 fans packed the Nationwide Arena. It was the largest announced crowd ever to see a hockey game in Columbus.

> Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock was given a plaque commemorating his 500th victory before the game.
1. K.Huselius, CBJ
2. A.Vermette, CBJ
3. E.Malkin, PIT
“When you look back you have to be pretty happy
with where we’ve come in 12 games.”
- Interim head coach Dan Bylsma told FSN Pittsburgh


Author: Sam Kasan

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