The Blue Jackets played one of their most complete and defensively-sound road games of the season tonight in Pittsburgh, made it a nail-biter late in the third period, but couldn't find an equalizer against a stingy Penguins team.
Seeking their second three-game winning streak of the season, the Blue Jackets came out flying and put the Penguins back on their heels. Pittsburgh spent an uncharacteristic (for their club) amount of time in the defensive zone and the Blue Jackets stuck to their game plan for the full 60 minutes. What they were missing all the way through was a lead, and given the way they were playing, this game might have turned out much differently had they not been playing catch-up in the third period.
Columbus out-shot the Penguins 10-8 in the first period but did not get a power play opportunity until late in the third period, a chance that went by the wayside in a 2-0 game. Pittsburgh managed to keep most of the Blue Jackets' chances either to the outside or of the "one and done" variety, and it wasn't until the third period when Columbus really jammed the net and made life difficult for Marc-Andre Fleury.
Goals from Evgeni Malkin - a beauty off the rush in the second period - and Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins all the offense they needed, and Crosby's goal in particular was a back-breaker (and obviously, it would stand as the game-winning goal).
Todd Richards pulled Curtis McElhinney (who played very well once again for the Blue Jackets) inside the final two minutes of regulation and it resulted in the 2-1 goal from Matt Calvert with 56 seconds to go. Richards then called timeout before the face-off at center ice, got McElhinney back on the bench for one final push, but the Penguins staved it off and escaped with two important divisional points.
As stated above, Crosby's goal was the dagger. The Blue Jackets were trailing 1-0 and very much in the game, and as Richards told NBC's Pierre McGuire during his in-game interview, "it's a one-shot game" at that point. Columbus seemed to have things sealed up off the rush, but a centering pass bounced off Crosby's skate and into the net at a very inopportune time for the Blue Jackets.
1. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY
This game felt much like the first meeting of the season between these two clubs, especially early on. The Blue Jackets came in waves and had all four lines going, and Fleury was forced to be sharp.
2. EVGENI MALKIN (PIT)
Outside of the goaltender, Malkin was the most engaged Penguins forward tonight and he looked like a guy hungry to get back into action after an injury. He scored a big goal for his team, was a threat both in transition and down low, and when he's in the lineup the Pittsburgh power play has another lethal dimension to it.
3. CURTIS MCELHINNEY (CBJ)
Thought McElhinney played a solid game for the Blue Jackets and allowed them to play a fluid game in transition. There wasn't much to worry about between the pipes for Columbus, and McElhinney was inches away from getting a diving poke check on Malkin's goal.
VS. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
TUESDAY, 7 P.M.