Columbus Blue Jackets 3-4 Pittsburgh Penguins: No Quit in These 'Guins

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Columbus Blue Jackets 3-4 Pittsburgh Penguins: No Quit in These 'Guins

The Penguins casualty list isn't pretty. Reading off the names, it almost becomes painful.

Heading into a building where they historically haven't had a whole lot of success, the table was set perfectly for their unblemished road record to receive its first black mark of the season.

Think about it.

How productive could the Blackhawks be without Toews, Seabrook, Byfuglien and Sharp? Or how about the Red Wings without Zetterberg, Lidstrom, Cleary and Helm? Maybe they could still win, but it would be much more difficult.

The Penguins started out the game about as bad as they possibly could. In front of a fired-up sellout crowd at the Nationwide Arena, Matt Cooke drew an early high-sticking call to send out the powerplay.

Except the man advantage looked like a man disadvantage.

The Penguins couldn't keep the puck in the zone, never tested Steve Mason and found themselves skating around in their own zone. Then with a few seconds left, the Penguins took a penalty themselves to put the Blue Jackets on a powerplay.

But the enjoyment didn't end there. The Penguins kept taking penalties and Brent Johnson stood strong in net, filling in for Marc-Andre Fleury.

After a questionable slashing call on Brooks Orpik , Rick Nash smashed a rebound into a wide open cage, sending the Blue Jackets faithful to utopia just before the end of the period. The Penguins looked sluggish, they were playing too much defense and taking far too many penalties.

It doesn't matter who's on the ice. That isn't a winning formula.

Dan Bylsma's men didn't come out strong in the second period either. Nash scored again and it looked like Groundhog Day. The last time the Penguins visited the Nationwide Arena, they fell behind 3-0 early and couldn't figure out Mason.

Two more penalties by the Penguins had the Blue Jackets sitting pretty. But that's where Psycho Kunitz took over.

On the penalty kill, Chris Kunitz broke in alone and was tripped up, but no call was made. Nash slammed into Mason trying to back-check and Crosby grabbed the rebound behind the net. With a flick of his wrist, he got Kunitz the puck again and No. 14 made no mistake roofing it above the two Blue Jackets in net.

The momentum was beginning to swing. Now the Penguins had a chance on the powerplay. But as soon as they had anything going, Columbus scores just as the penalty expires to regain the two goal lead.

Drones.

The Blue Jackets shifted into their defensive shell, trying to preserve a win. After blown leads late, they had no intention of repeating that performance.

With seven minutes left in the game, Penguin captain Crosby gets sent to the sin-bin and the game looks all but over. Another powerplay for the Jackets should seal the deal.

But the Penguins kill it off.

Of all things, the Penguins picked up momentum when Crosby absolutely destroyed Marc Methot near the bench. How many fingers would you hold up when counting how many times a hit by Crosby has shifted momentum? Probably zero.

But it did, and the Penguins are suddenly all over the homestanding squad. Ruslan Fedotenko bags the rebound goal with three minutes left, and it's game on.

A few seconds later, El Gaucho Alex Goligoski blasts a wristshot past Mason. Tied.

Then, the two sides head to a shootout, and what to expect. Crosby scores the game winner again, making it four-for-four on the season.

 

Goaltender

B. Johnson: 7.5 . Made a number of stunning saves early on to keep the Penguins within striking distance. Then once again, was a brick wall in net during the shootout, stopping every attempt.

 

Defense

Eaton: 5.5 . Not a terrific defensive game. Allowed the pass to get through on a two-on-one that lead to the third Columbus goal.

Goligoski: 7 . For the first 55 minutes of the game, didn't manage to create much offense. But the game is 60 minutes, and he was fully aware of that. Scored the game-tying goal with 140 seconds left on the clock.

Letang: 4.5 . Just didn't have "it." Had a pair of juicy chances at one-timers and couldn't pull the trigger on either. Was not solid on the powerplay.

McKee: 6 . Came on more later in the game, like many others.

Orpik: 5 . Took two poor penalties, one which lead to the opening goal. But showed great poise on the blue line to set up Fedotenko's goal.

Skoula: 7 . Easily his best game in a Penguin uniform. Was very productive while playing offense and great defensively. Deserved to play more than 18 minutes.

 

Forwards

Adams: 5.5 . Made his presence felt by hitting and tightened up his penalty killing after allowing a first period PP goal.

Bourque: 6 . Speed doesn't slump. His game revolves around it, and he proved to be a very nice sidekick alongside Jordan Staal. Had a few quality chances but needs to stay out of the box.

Conner: 5.5 . Made a few inspired drives, using his tremendous speed. But seemed overmatched sometimes and clearly wasn't adept at playing defense in the NHL.

Cooke: 6.5 . A hitting force as usual.

Crosby: 8.5 . Set up two goals then scored the winner in the shootout. Had a minor injury scare in the second period as he landed awkwardly, but never missed a shift. Not a great day in the circle but still won 12 draws.

Dupuis: 6.5 . What flu? Whatever illness was plaguing him earlier, it is gone. Was sensational on the penalty kill and very nearly had a shorthanded goal.

Fedotenko: 7 . Has a knack for scoring goals when the Penguins need them most. Tied the game late on Long Island, now scores with three minutes left to give his teammates a chance to tie.

Godard: 4 .  Almost never saw the ice as he only played two shifts.

Guerin: 5 . Played like a groundhog. Would poke his head out for a few minutes, then not be seen for large stretches at a time.

Kunitz: 8.5 . What one goal can do for you. Played with a purpose and looked like he wanted to (and planned to) score five times. All over the place, causing havoc behind the Blue Jacket defense. Scored shorthanded then added an assist on the game-tying goal.

Rupp: 6.5 . Might have only played 39 games in a Blue Jackets uniform, but made no mistake in hitting every white jersey he saw. Thanks to his hitting power, the Jackets wore down as the game progressed.

Staal: 6 . Looked dangerous on occasion shorthanded, but never managed to make much happen offensively.

 

The Penguins head back home immediately where they face Petr Sykora and the Minnesota Wild at the Mellon Arena. Fleury will be back in net for the second of a back-to-back. With a win, the Penguins can set the record for most wins (12) in October for a defending Cup champion.

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