The Pittsburgh Penguins engaged several scraps including Ryan Reaves’ near knockout of Lukas Sedlak and Sidney Crosby’s wrestling match with Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones but failed to score at even strength. The emotion was high, and the Penguins won in a shootout, 3-2 at PPG Paints Arena.
Columbus scored seven minutes into the first period. Emerging rookie Pierre Luc Dubois was left uncovered on the right wing dot by Ryan Reaves and Carter Rowney. Dubois snapped a wrister top corner over Penguins goalie Matt Murray. 1-0.
Over the past several years, the Blue Jackets have used the Penguins as a punching bag. Just fifteen minutes into the game, Penguins tough guy Ryan Reaves demonstrated a new dynamic.
Reaves checked Markus Hannikainen into the boards. Blue Jackets second line center, Lukas Sedlak attempted to defend his teammate by fighting Reaves.
Reaves connected on several clean punches. Sedlak left the game and did not return. It wasn’t a knockout, but certainly a TKO.
Late in the second period, Evgeni Malkin and the Blue Jackets top line center, Nick Foligno decided they, too, would dance. It wasn’t much of a fight but was essential to jumpstart the Penguins who had deflated throughout the second period.
“It’s Columbus. It’s no surprise. It started a long time ago. We hate each other,” said Malkin.
Moments before the fight, Foligno hooked Malkin in front of the Blue Jackets net to prevent a scoring chance, then laid on top Malkin to stop the center from continuing the play. Neither were called, so Malkin enforced his own justice.
At the end of the second period, more stars engaged in the festivities. Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones jabbed at Penguins forward Jake Guentzel. Sidney Crosby raced over to fight Jones. Though neither dropped the gloves it was a spirited wrestling match. Both Crosby and Jones received double minors for roughing.
In the melee, Kris Letang received a roughing minor, but Blue Jackets thumper and Penguins thorn Boone Jenner was also assessed a cross-checking major and a game misconduct.
The Penguins scored on the resulting power play, at the beginning of the third period. Patric Hornqvist deflected a Phil Kessel shot. 1-1.
Late in the game, as the Blue Jackets wore down from playing back-to-back games, Evgeni Malkin batted a Sidney Crosby shot out of the air, past Blue Jackets goalie Sergie Bobrovsky. 2-1.
However, Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin scored a late power play goal with a sneaky wrist shot. Panarin noticed Penguins goalie Matt Murray crouch to peer through the mass of bodies in front. Panarin quickly zipped a wrist shot over Murray, to force overtime.
Neither team could win in overtime, though the Penguins thrilled the boisterous home crowd with seemingly endless chances. Kris Letang scored the shootout winner.
One-Timers and Press Box Nachos
–Don’t get too excited by the win. The Penguins again failed to score at even strength, and are careening towards being the worst 5v5 team in modern NHL history. Seriously. Here’s PHN’s breakdown of the statistics, before the Colorado game. …they haven’t gotten better.
–Sidney Crosby had FOUR right wings. Dominik Simon in the first period. Bryan Rust in the second an parts of the third period. Phil Kessel at the end of the second period. And Ryan Reaves took a shift with 87 in the third period, too.
Sullivan is trying anything to get Crosby going. Sid is, like most of the Penguins, playing outside the dots. He’s not trusting his linemates to make plays, as he did last season. He’s playing too much with the puck, too far away from the net.
–Ryan Reaves. Twitter went crazy when Malkin, then Crosby scrapped.
“Why do they even have Reaves if Crosby has to fight,” was the most popular cry. Without writing 1000 words, please accept this explanation, even if you don’t like it.
Crosby and Malkin both chose to get involved. Neither man was under physical assault. That’s a good thing. Both decided to get involved. That only happens because Columbus wasn’t battering the stars. That’s a good thing, right?
Crosby and Malkin got involved physically, on their terms. Hockey is a tough game played by hard people. Reaves mere presence will not deter hits, a few jabs or even an occasional cheap shot. He does, as evidenced Thursday night, prevent excessive cheap play. Merely compare past CBJ physical abuse against how little there was, Thursday.
At the risk of upsetting many of you–when I was new to the national stage, and broadcasting in Toronto, I espoused the negative view of tough guys detracting from stars. A colleague kindly looked at me with some reservation, “That’s a very Pittsburgh view,” he said.
Take it for what its worth.
–Jamie Oleksiak did everything asked of him. He was stellar in the defensive zone and even whistled a couple of big shots just wide. It was one game, but an auspicious start.
–The Penguins had 41 shots, including a Conor Sheary breakaway and Phil Kessel alone in front. Otherwise, how many Grade A scoring chances did they have?
Mike Sullivan continues to juggle the lines like a frantic parent on Christmas morning with a drawer full of batteries. Some work, some don’t. If you keep changing them, eventually you’ll find four double-A’s that don’t need to be put in the freezer until you can get to the store to buy more… Sullivan is still searching for a pairing beyond Malkin-Kessel which works.
The Penguins need a top-6 winger? It is just like old times!