PITTSBURGH — Offensive dynamos Jack Johnson and Marcus Pettersson led the Penguins offensive charge. Perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration but the defensemen put the puck on net and the red goal light flashed. Jared McCann scored a pair of goals, too. It wasn’t the Penguins stars who filled the scoring sheet but the Penguins (1-1-0) rebounded from their first game meltdown to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets (0-2-0) 7-2 at PPG Paints Arena Saturday night.
The grinders scored and Sidney Crosby dropped the gloves to fight Columbus top center, Pierre-Luc Dubois. Seems right.
The Penguins had won eight of their previous nine games against Columbus and the last seven games in Pittsburgh. Columbus was gutted in the offseason by big-name free agent departures including Matt Duchene, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Artemi Panarin. The Penguins had also earned points in 13 of their last 15 games against Columbus.
Columbus rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins from Latvia made his NHL debut and by the second period, he was all shook up. Nearly two minutes into the second period, Johnson slapped the puck towards the net. it grazed Patric Hornqvist (1) and the Penguins earned their first lead of the season.
A few minutes later, Dominik Simon carried the puck deep against several Columbus defenders. Crosby prevented Columbus from moving the puck and snapped a pass to Pettersson in the slot. Pettersson’s shot (1) trickled through Merzlikins.
Penguins winger Jared McCann (1, 2) scored the next two Penguins goals. Eight minutes into the second period, Johnson and Brandon Tanev won puck battles in the Penguins zone and the Penguins transitioned past Columbus for an odd-man rush. McCann finished the two-on-one.
With five minutes left in the second period, Galchenyuk rushed the Columbus zone and cut to the right wing. Both Columbus defenders followed Galchenyuk which left McCann wide open on the left wing. McCann stepped forward and lit the lamp for a 4-1 Penguins lead.
The Penguins added a little more salt in the final seconds of the second period. On the power play, three defenders followed Galchenyuk again. Kris Letang (1) was wide open in the right wing circle and beat Merzlikins who was at the end of lonely street.
Evgeni Malkin had a nine-game point streak against Columbus snapped. Malkin left the game after being checked into the boards in the first period. It appeared Malkin may have had the wind knocked out of him, but he did not return.
Penguins goalie Murray is now 9-2-1 all-time against Columbus.
In the first period, the Penguins power play stumbled through a pair of opportunities. Defenseman Justin Schultz took the point on the top unit which also included Jake Guentzel. The PP1 crew but the Penguins failed to establish zone time or pressure.
Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski scored the Columbus goal nearly seven minutes into the second period. He cut the Penguins lead to 2-1 as the Penguins scrambled in front of their own net. Werenski was alone near the right post and easily buried the chance.
Columbus free agent acquisition Gustav Nyquist scored with five minutes remaining in the game.
McCann had three points. He also assisted on Hornqvist’s goal. Galchenyuk had a pair of assists.