It was a back-and-forth affair Sunday night at Nationwide Arena, but it was the Columbus Blue Jackets that skated away with a 5-4 overtime victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in both team’s opening preseason contest.
The Penguins had two goals from training camp tryout Chuck Kobasew and one apiece from James Neal and Dustin Jeffrey. Rookie Ryan Murray, the second-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, scored the winning OT goal for Columbus.
*By far the player that stood out the most to me was forward Beau Bennett. His play was more reminiscent of a 10-year veteran, not a 21-year-old second-year pro. Particularly impressive was Bennett’s strength. He added muscle over the summer and has upped his physical game. Bennett was involved in a heavy collision, forcing a turnover, in the first minute of the game, regained his composure and got the puck to Neal to start the scoring. I also like that Bennett has been crashing the net, reading the play well and opting to shoot when he had an opportunity – instead of always deferring to Evgeni Malkin and Neal.
*Neal also looked good. He was flying on the ice and was displaying that quick release that allowed him to become a 40-goal scorer in the NHL.
"I haven’t gotten the official stats yet, but James Neal had to have 10-12, maybe 14 shots on net, not including the posts that he hit," coach Dan Bylsma said after the game. "An absolute dangerous weapon every time he was on the ice."
*Note: Officially, Neal had eight recorded shots and three that missed the net. He also hit the post twice.
*Kobasew told me earlier today that, “I’ll got out there, skate hard, be good in my own end and see how it goes.” It went well. Kobasew scored two goals for the Penguins, including the game-tying goal late in the third period to force overtime. Both of Kobasew’s goals were from where you would expect them to be, right in the crease. That’s his game. And he made quite a first impression.
*If I had to sum up Tom Kuhnhackl in one word, it would be: attitude. He’s a fierce competitor that plays with intensity. Kuhnhackl was a force for the Blue Jackets to handle, constantly crashing the net and creating havoc. Both of Kobasew’s goals came with Kuhnhackl causing problems for Jackets D-men in the blue paint. The German native picked up two assists in the game.
*Penguins fans got a glimpse of their future power-play quarterback in Derrick Pouliot. He was working the puck masterfully on the man-advantage, reading the play, finding the passing lanes, making quick decisions and getting the puck to the forwards. Pouliot was cool on the blue line and looked exceptional in that role.
"On the defensive side of things, you notice Derrick Pouliot with the poise and him playing back there with the puck on the top (power-play) unit there with Evgeni Malkin," Bylsma said. "The poise and patience he showed, I thought there was a lot there."
*The Penguins lost two players in the course of the contest. Joe Vitale, Bobby Farnham and Brian Dumoulin both left the game and did not return.