Wednesday night at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins avoided a disaster out loss to a team they are chasing in the standings.
Fighting back three times from a two-goal deficit before sweeping through a shoot-out to come up with a wild 5-4 win over Columbus.
This game displayed many of the same qualities as the first meeting last Thursday. Although there were no widespread displays of fist-a-cuffs, it was an intense game with many momentum swings.
Columbus, without many players due to injury, including Brandon Dubinsky, Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray, Cam Atkinson and Alex Weinberg, jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead.
Pittsburgh would find themselves without Kris Letang who missed the game with a lower-body injury. Head Coach Mike Sullivan deemed Letang day-to-day after Wednesday’s morning skate.
Sonny Milano and Boone Jenner tallied for the Jackets who punctuated Pittsburgh’s struggles to start game yet again. Jenner’s goal was a short side roof job that exploited Matt Murray being off his angle and away from his post on the play.
While the Penguins old out-shoot Columbus 12-11 in the first, it felt like the teams were miles apart the other way.
During the broadcast on multiple occasions Bob Errey would talk about the team’s confidence being an issue. To accentuate that point, during an in-game interview with Patric Hornqvist, No. 72 would say the same thing.
You would think a large portion of players who have been through the success his team has wouldn’t be lacking for confidence at all. Sports are funny that way.
The Penguins would try to start building some of that confidence back with just under six minutes gone in the second period.
After an unsuccessful power play to start the frame, Conor Sheary would take a feed from Bryan Rust and wrist a puck through Sergei Bobrovsky to give everyone a jump-start.
Pittsburgh would carry the play for large stretches for the remainder of the period. However, an old nemesis would put a serious dent in the Penguins chances late in the period.
Artemi Panarin would gain the zone and stop on a dime against the two Pittsburgh defenseman in the slot. He would unleash a laser of a wrist shot that beat Murray over the glove to restore a two goal Blue Jacket advantage.
That score would hold up through a late-period power play chance for Pittsburgh and into the second intermission.
Period three was as wild as we’ve seen lately. The Penguins would cash in twice on the power play as Evgeni Malkin would take over. Malkin would register a goal and two assists in the twenty minutes.
But it didn’t come easy.
Phil Kessel would make it 3-2 with a wrist shot that squeezed through Bobrovsky and just rolled over the line at 3:34. Kessel’s team leading 16th goal was the first of the two on the power play
Panarin again, however would strike halfway through the third as it seems he was willing to carry his team to a victory that would have put the Jackets NINE points up on the Penguins. A loss would have put Pittsburgh in the Metro division basement.
A couple of no-calls against Columbus would aide in their fourth goal coming to fruition. Including a can-opener move on Hornqvist that was called at the beginning of the third against Sidney Crosby. Consistency, please…
But with Seth Jones in the penalty box, it would take Malkin just 10 seconds to begin the final comeback.
He would clean up a Kessel wrister on the door stop in front of Bobrovsky. Much like Panarin’s second goal where Murray would have trouble finding and controlling, the same would happen to the Vezina winner.
At that point you could sense the Penguins would get another one. For as great as Bobrovsky has been over the last few years, he gets a case of the yips when he sees Pittsburgh in his sights.
And with time winding down, Jake Guentzel would finish a rebound from a failed Hornqvist wrap-a-round attempt to tie the game with 1:40 to go.
So as the game moved into overtime, feeling of frustration in giving Columbus a point was washed away by the relief of not ending the night without any points at all for Pittsburgh.
Just :23 seconds into the fourth period, it appeared that Crosby had capped the night off right with a rebound goal into a half-wide-open cage. Columbus would quickly leave the bench area into the locker room, but the war room in Toronto wanted to take another look.
It was determined that Brian Dumoulin did interfere with Bobrovsky even though a case could have been made that Pierre-Luc Dubois forced him into him.
So the band played on and the Penguins would have to kill a four on three power play soon after. Usually those power plays are a sure-fire goal, but the Penguins survived it and we went to a shootout.
In the shootout, Malkin and Crosby would both beat Bobrovsky low, while Murray would shut the door on Dubois and Panarin to end the game for real this time.
It was, as said earlier, an important victory for Pittsburgh. With the rest of the division gaining a point except the Flyers who didn’t play, it was pivotal to come out with pints on the evening.
In addition to Letang being out, Pittsburgh would lose Bryan Rust and Chad Ruhwedel during the game. No immediate updates were given on their condition following the game.
Murray, who again looked shaky between the pipes like the Ducks game, would finish with 29 saves on 33 shots. Bobrovsky made 33 saves in the loss.
Pittsburgh will now take to the road for three games as they travel to Carolina for the first meeting between the teams this season, on Friday.
We will have all of your coverage at Pittsburgh Sports Castle. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!