Penguins Miss Their Chance to Bury CBJ, Lose 4-1
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Penguins Miss Their Chance to Bury CBJ, Lose 4-1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins had a chance to earn a six-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the race for an Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Instead, each team will wake up Sunday morning exactly where they began the weekend. The Penguins have just a two-point lead and Columbus is firmly in the playoff race after Columbus beat the Penguins 4-1 at Nationwide Arena, Saturday night.

The Penguins wasted a brilliant performance by goalie Matt Murray. He was worth the price of admission and kept the Penguins in the game with no less than five saves which should have been goals. The Penguins eight-game winning streak over Columbus and three-game winning streak was snapped.

Columbus winger Cam Atkinson was a force with a pair of goals (37, 38) including a shorthanded goal and the empty netter.

Columbus was a desperate team in the first period. They were aggressive and faster than the Penguins. After being shutout Thursday night, Columbus finally beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray several minutes into the first period.

After Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz pinched at the offensive blue line but was hit in the face with the puck and missed several minutes. The result of the play was a 2-on-1 for Columbus and Boone Jenner (12) had a free shot at Murray and didn’t miss.

Murray was otherwise spectacular in the first 20 minutes including consecutive acrobatic saves on Josh Anderson and Jenner.

“I wouldn’t say I was in the zone, I made some pretty bad reads, honestly, which is why I had to get desperate on some of those. I was pretty lucky,” Murray said. “Some of the back door plays I was sliding or already down and they passed it around me and I had to get desperate.”

But the Penguins and specifically Phil Kessel were again bitten by the shorthanded goal monster. Kessel faceplanted when he tripped over the defensive blue line and Cam Atkinson had a clear path towards Murray. Atkinson (37) whipped a wrister from the circle past Murray. It was Atkinson’s fourth shortie this season and the 14th shorthanded goal allowed.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Evgeni Malkin, Kessel and Zach Aston-Reese helped the Penguins halve the Columbus lead, six minutes into the second period. At the blue line, Malkin intercepted a sloppy Columbus clearing attempt by defenseman Seth Jones. Malkin served the puck to Aston-Reese (8) just beyond the crease and the Penguin made a game of it.

After being dominated in the first period, the Penguins were able to stabilize in the second period, though Columbus continued to force Murray to make spectacular saves.

“They definitely came hard tonight. They threw a lot of pucks at the net and got a lot of chances. I just tried to weather the storm, I guess,” Murray shrugged.

The teams traded chances and momentum for the latter half of the second period and third. Columbus center Matt Duchene hit a post, as did Penguins winger Jake Guentzel. Columbus didn’t allow the Penguins much space, though the Penguins weren’t as stingy and allowed Columbus a few open shots off the rush. The early Columbus rush set the tone.

“We just didn’t handle it as well as we would have liked,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.

Oliver Bjorkstrand (14) converted what became a 2-on-0 in front of Murray with three minutes remaining to salt the game for Columbus.

Murray continued to bail out the Penguins out like an enabling parent. Murray allowed three goals on 32 shots but was easily the Penguins best player.

“I thought he was terrific. He made some 10 bell saves to keep us in the game,” Sullivan said.

 

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Zane Gearhart

    March 9, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    I hope they dump kessel over the summer. Watching him is so hard at times. Yes it was a fluke him falling over nothing, but his lack of willingness to battle for a puck means his style of play doesn’t fit the rest of the team. I’d much rather have a few more ZAR or Rust type players that 1 player who scores a ton, but still is a minus player.

    • JICS

      March 9, 2019 at 10:22 pm

      I would rather trade (or give away) Simon! Crosby’s line is playing amazing hockey with McCann on the line, but Sully just can’t leave a good thing alone – he loves to get Simon on that top line and give him top minutes – I guess he must be trying to get him a good contract! It’s not working!!!

  2. Matt Luda

    March 9, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Any time 87 wants to shoot the puck is fine with me. Passed up two Grade A’s, including one very early in the game that set the tone. Score first against a fragile team like CBJ and the Pens probably win the game. #SeenThisFishBefore #WastedOpportunity

  3. JICS

    March 9, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    @ Matt: Sid does the same “all the time” on the PP, too. He loves to score but seems to think he should always defer. I’ve heard different times that the Coach was telling Malkin to shoot more – I always wonder why they don’t tell Sid to. He does whatever the Coach says, even if it was standing on his head at center ice, so I have to presume that they just sit idly by. Imagine how many more games we would win if he would just shoot the puck on the mega opportunities he gets! Tonight is probably a good example, like you say.

  4. JICS

    March 9, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    And no one can blame this one on Murray!

    • Zane Gearhart

      March 9, 2019 at 10:27 pm

      Murray played amazing tonight

    • Matt Luda

      March 9, 2019 at 10:33 pm

      Oh, yes, Metzer can. He’s already picking Murray apart for two of the goals. Waiting for him to blame MM for the empty-net goal. #FleuryLicker

  5. Tim

    March 9, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    I won’t this team to win the cup so, bad! The way they played Thursday was so, inspiring!

  6. Matt Luda

    March 9, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    Crosby would have 50-75 more career goals if he had been more aggressive in prime scoring areas. His insistence to pass to inferior teammates in less-threatening areas isn’t heroic. It’s counterproductive. I know his youth coach instructed him to pass more, but this isn’t Pee Wee hockey any more. I don’t care for Ovechkin because of his puck-hog tendencies, but at least the guy understands that you have to score to win the game.

  7. Ricardo58

    March 9, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    The next 2 games will show if the Pens are contenders or pretenders. It’s not reasonable to think the Pens would win out. But a strong determined bounce back is required tomorrow vs Bruins. A W is a must.
    Count me as a fan who would like to see 81 traded over the summer.

  8. Tim

    March 9, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    No matt was great tonight! What in the hell is wrong with Phil Kessel!

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