The Pittsburgh Penguins used an old formula to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets and silence the cannon at Nationwide Arena. The Penguins forecheck kept the Blue Jackets off balance, and the Penguins scored a couple of soft goals against Sergei Bobrovsky on their way to a 5-2 win at Nationwide Arena.
About 90 seconds into the game, the Penguins took a 1-0 lead. Penguins center Riley Sheahan (7) neatly deflected Jamie Oleksiak’s point shot past Bobrovsky, starting a fine game for the goal-scorer.
There was controversy when Penguins forward Phil Kessel chopped at Bobrovsky’s stick. Columbus challenged for goalie interference, but subsequent replays showed Kessel hit Bobrovsky’s stick after the puck passed through the five-hole.
“(Sheahan) was one of our best players out there,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “We believed he had that ability when we acquired him, that his offensive game would come and it seems to be at the most important time of the year.”
Bobrovsky’s body positioning was too loose, which allowed Sheahan’s deflection to trickle through.
Brian Dumoulin (4) scored the next leaky marker, seven minutes into the first period. Dumoulin nullified a Blue Jackets scoring chance when he overpowered rugged Blue Jackets winger Matt Calvert, and one minute later Dumoulin’s long shot bounced through Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets goalie again failed to maintain tight body positioning.
Columbus scored late in the first period, but the Penguins answered in the final 90 seconds of the period. Sheahan’s (8) wrist shot from the slot slipped between the Russian goalie’s blocker arm and body. The goal held up as the game-winner.
Sheahan has four goals in his last six games.
“(This game) was something we had marked down. It was a good win against the Leafs, and it’s tough traveling and playing back to back games,” Sheahan said. “We did a good job bearing down, and it was an important game for us.”
Zach Aston-Reese scored the Penguins fourth goal, which was his fourth goal in his last four games, midway through the second period. Penguins defenseman Matt Hunwick, who played his second consecutive game because Justin Schultz is out with an illness, shot the puck towards traffic in front of the net. Hunwick’s shot hit Zach Werenski’s skates, and Aston-Reese (4) outmuscled the Blue Jackets defenders in front of the net for the greasy goal.
(Aston-Reese fits in well with the Penguins. Sidney Crosby is making sure of it.)
Jake Guentzel drove the stake into the Blue Jackets heart with five minutes remaining. Guentzel streaked into the Columbus zone on the left wing and blew a slap shot past Bobrovsky.
Tristan Jarry stopped 35 or 37 shots. Jarry made several big saves, including a glove stop on Nick Foligno’s second-period breakaway.
Bobrovsky stopped 18 of 23 shots. Artemi Panarin (16) and Alexander Wennberg (6) scored for the Blue Jackets.
The win propelled the Penguins past the Washington Capitals and into first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins have won five straight and 10 of their last 12. The Capitals do have three games in hand.
• Believe it or not, the Penguins have another gear they haven’t yet used. The Penguins are winning in workmanlike ways. They are professional wins. The Penguins’ forecheck befuddled the Blue Jackets early, just as the Penguins forced miscues from the Maple Leafs defense only 24 hours ago.
• Remember when the Penguins couldn’t win back-to-back games?
• Aston-Reese’s play is difficult to assess properly. He does so many little things which go unnoticed; it sometimes takes multiple viewings to realize how many battles his wins. Count me as curious as you regarding his ceiling. He may be a gritty 20-goal scorer or a 10-goal plugger who can play beside Sidney Crosby.
It’s believed at least one Western Conference team is looking at the Penguins’ surplus of wingers, including Aston-Reese.
• Olli Maatta and Jamie Oleksiak continue to carry the puck low in the offensive zone boldly. The Penguins forwards determine if the pinch was good or bad. On Sunday, the forwards covered well. In fact, the Penguins limited their mistakes, especially after leading 3-1.
The Penguins knew they had control of the game and did nothing to jeopardize it.
• Brandon Dubinsky played over 13 minutes, and had six hits but did anyone notice?
• Ryan Reaves played under five minutes. The lack of aggressiveness from the above player meant the Penguins could focus on getting their skilled players on the ice.
A lead also helps, tremendously.
• Seriously, that was a Columbus-Pittsburgh game?! Disappointing for those of us who love the intense rivalry.