The Pittsburgh Penguins (35-22-9) battle the Columbus Blue Jackets (37-26-3) at PPG Paints Arena, tonight in the first game of a “home and home” series. Both teams are on the playoff fringe and the four-point swings could alter each team’s season.
Columbus cannot gather momentum after making several key moves during the trade deadline. Despite acquiring Matt Duchene, Adam McQuaid, and Keith Kinkaid, Columbus is 5-5 in their ten games including losses to Edmonton and Winnipeg. The Penguins continue to ride the efforts of Sidney Crosby and have won seven-straight games against the Blue Jackets. Crosby has turned in multi-point efforts in his last five games and has galvanized a first line that looks authoritative. The 31-year old center is now fourth in the league in points and might be hunting for new hardware to add to his trophy case.
Matt Murray starts his sixth straight game tonight. Murray has a .917 saves percentage and 2.52 goals-against during this span. Columbus surprisingly, will turn to Joonas Korpisalo instead of Sergei Bobrovsky or recently acquired Keith Kinkaid. Korpisalo is 9-5-2 on the year with a 3.01 goals against.
The landscape of the Metropolitan Division continues to change after each night of games. The New York Islanders hold the top spot but remain tied with Washington in points with 83. The Penguins and Carolina remain within striking distance with just 4 points to make up throughout the last three weeks of the season. Carolina and the Penguins play two more times this season with both games looming large in solidifying the playoff picture.
The Penguins needed overtime to defeat the Florida Panthers 3-2, Tuesday, but picked up the second point regardless. Florida opened the scoring with a little under two minutes into the game on a Henrik Borgstrom (8) goal. After a disallowed goal, the Penguins went into the first intermission with a deficit. The Penguins dominated the second period, and the first line led the way. Sidney Crosby forced a turnover and found Jake Guentzel (32) in the slot to tie the game. The assist was Crosby’s 1200th career point, and one of three points he earned in the game. After a Phil Kessel shot off the pad on the power play, Sidney Crosby (30) pounced on the rebound to give his team the lead. Pittsburgh native Vincent Trochek (7) scored late in the second to tie the game at two.
After a scoreless third period, the teams traded chances until Sidney Crosby found Jake Guentzel for a breakaway to win the game. Guentzel took the pass at Florida’s blueline and fought off two defenders to pull off a backhand move to win the game. The OT winner was Jake Guentzel’s (33) second goal of the game and reminded fans of Mario Lemieux’s 1991 Stanley Cup Final goal against the North Stars. It is ironic that the goal came on the Penguin’s 90’s theme night.
Not lost in the victory was Matt Cullen, who took sole possession of second place on the all-time games played list by US-born players. Cullen passed Mike Modano, who he Idolized and was grateful after the game for the Penguins recognition of the milestone.
Matt Murray started in his fifth straight game and saved 32 of 34 shots for his 21st win of the year. Roberto Luongo started for Florida and saved 34 shots.
Columbus was able to keep pace in the Metro with a 2-1 SO win against the New Jersey Devils. Cam Atkinson (36) scored for Columbus and also converted on his shootout attempt. Sergei Bobrovsky started in net and saved 29 of 30 shots. Bobrovsky also stopped both shootout attempts by New Jersey.
Phil Kessel is playing in his 313th-consecutive game since joining the Penguins tonight against the Blue Jackets. Kessel will be tying Ron Schock for the second-longest consecutive games played streak in franchise history. Kessel is in a slump, but the fan support continues to be welcomed.
Olli Maatta (Upper-Body, IR)
Kris Letang (Upper-Body)
Bryan Rust (Long term)
Chad Ruhwedel (Long term)
Ryan Murray (Upper body)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||11.9% (7-59) 30th NHL||90.2% (5-51) 1st NHL|
|Montreal Canadiens||13.6% (9-66) 28th NHL||68.7% (21-67) 30th NHL|
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Evan Rodrigues|
|Jason Zucker||Jeff Carter||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Danton Heinen||Brian Boyle||Dominik Simon|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brock McGinn|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mike Matheson||Chad Ruhwedel|