FINAL: BLUE JACKETS 5 | PENGUINS 3
CONSOL ENERGY CENTER | PITTSBURGH, PA
L: MARC-ANDRE FLEURY
Earlier this week, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards sensed that some of his veteran players still had another level to reach before he could deem them "game ready."
They faced a stern test today in Pittsburgh, against a Penguins team playing one of its final preseason games and looking to fine-tune its game on home ice. And after a 5-4 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets less than a week earlier, one had to figure the Penguins would come out with a spark.
Despite a very early push from the Penguins and a three-goal push in the second period, the Blue Jackets had a pretty firm grasp on the pace of the game - and didn't let it get away from them despite Pittsburgh erasing a three-goal deficit. Boone Jenner, preparing to cement his name on the Blue Jackets' opening night roster, scored his second of two goals on the day midway through the third period to lift Columbus to a 5-3 win at CONSOL Energy Center.
Brandon Dubinsky - having a strong preseason in his own right - played a second straight game between Jenner and Marian Gaborik, and was a monster in the middle of the ice. He played over 21 minutes and opened the scoring 1:04 into the first period, snapping a quick wrister over Marc-Andre Fleury's glove-side shoulder.
Jenner re-directed a Jack Johnson wrister into the top corner at 8:35 to stake the Blue Jackets to a 2-0 lead. Cam Atkinson continued his solid preseason play with the 3-0 goal at 2:30 of the second period, and then, the Penguins went on the attack.
Jussi Jokinen recorded a natural hat trick - three straight goals - in a span of 8:28 in the second period and pulled the Penguins all square. That was, in essence, the only offense the Penguins could muster all afternoon. Columbus did a nice job defending in its own zone against Pittsburgh's top players and killed off a 72-second 5-on-3 that stunted any Penguins momentum.
Jenner's second of the game was a thing of beauty: Dubinsky was denied on a point-blank chance, but Jenner pursued the puck to the corner and won a 1-on-1 battle to free it up, and wrapped the puck all the way around the opposite side of the net, tossing a backhander into a crowd assembled in front. The puck banked off the shin pad of Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and into the net, the game-winning goal and another example of what the 20-year-old can bring to the Blue Jackets.
1. JUSSI JOKINEN (PIT)
Well, if you notch a hat trick, you're pretty much guaranteed the No. 1 star honors (even if it's in a losing effort). Jokinen was Pittsburgh's most effective player and single-handedly got them back in the game. He logged 17:41 and was one of three players in the game to register six shots on goal.
2. BOONE JENNER (CBJ)
Richards was asked after the game if Jenner is making the roster decisions difficult. He replied by saying that, at this point, it's not much of a decision to have Jenner on the roster. The kid has let his game do the talking, and he did so in a big way against the Penguins. His first goal was a nifty re-direct and the second was all hard work. That line with Dubinsky and Gaborik has made an impact in both games together.
3. BRANDON DUBINSKY (CBJ)
Dubinsky was the best player on the ice last week against Carolina, and he was darn good again today. He set the forechecking tempo but getting under the skin of the Penguins' defense, finishing his checks and buzzing around the puck on every shift. He played 21:11, recording a goal and three assists to lead the way offensively.