The Pittsburgh Penguins trailed for most of the game and deserved their deficit. The Penguins scored two goals in just over two minutes in the third period. On Saturday, Jason Zucker poked a rebound home in OT for a 4-3 Penguins win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Fortunately, the Columbus crowd was quiet. Perhaps fear of waking the Penguins who sleepwalked through most of the game.
Mark Friedman may have cost himself any chance of supplanting Chad Ruhwedel at the Penguins third-pairing right-side defenseman. Midway through the first period, Friedman confronted Columbus forward Sean Kuraly for zipping through the crease and contacting goalie Tristan Jarry.
Rather than the usual pushing and shoving, or an honest fight, Friedman speared Kuraly. Referees gave Friedman the heave-ho with a five-minute major and 10-minute game misconduct.
In the words of Ian McShane in the John Wick series, Friedman’s game was “by thine own hand, revoked.”
The Penguins PK got a strenuous workout in the first period. In addition to Friedman’s major penalty, Brian Boyle took a holding penalty, Sam Lafferty crosschecking, and Brian Dumoulin hooking.
The Penguins played just 11 minutes at even strength in the first period. Unsurprisingly, the shots were 10-4, and Columbus had 25 shots attempts.
Head coach Mike Sullivan wanted to see who could kill penalties. He got a good view–and the Penguins PK was solid–in the first.
“The penalty kill got a lot of work, maybe that’s a silver lining,” Sullivan said straightly.
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored the first goal in the first period. Penguins winger Brock McGinn lost his man, Bjorkstrand, who whipped a quick shot past Tristan Jarry.
Later in the first period, Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel tallied on the rush. Ruhwedel’s shot deflected past Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins.
The Penguins didn’t fare much better at 5v5 in the second period. The team mustered only six shots on goal. The Penguins had just 10 shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, and Evan Rodrigues quietly had three of them.
If this is the regular season Penguins–uh oh. However, neither Sidney Crosby nor Jake Guentzel was in the lineup. Crosby participated in the morning skate on Saturday, but he doesn’t have a specific timetable for return. Guentzel is still in the NHL’s COVID protocol. Wednesday will be his 10th day.
Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese was in the protocol for 10 days, though there isn’t an official maximum of days that a player must remain in the protocol.
Columbus scored the following two goals as Sean Kuraly was the late trailer and had an open wrister. Max Domi converted a Dominik Simon turnover into a red light, too.
Bryan Rust scored a breakaway goal midway through the third period when he skated right past three Columbus defenders at the offensive blue line. Interestingly, it was the first shot on goal for the Heinen-Carter-Rust line.
That’s bad news, but the Pittsburgh Penguins scored a second goal 2:15 later when Teddy Blueger’s shot deflected off someone(s) in the slot. It was the second goal for the Blueger line with McGinn and Simon (Ruhwedel scored with the trio on the ice, too).
Jake Bean high-sticked Brock McGinn with 4:07 remaining. The Penguins had a four-minute power play to end regulation until Jason Zucker supposedly roughed goalie Elvis Merzlikens on the power play. It was a terrible call, but it’s the preseason. No one lost a game or a paycheck.
Still a horrendous call.
Zucker got the game-winner in OT on the power play. Columbus had too many men on the ice, and Zucker converted a rebound into a red light for the winner.
“(In the third period), we just started to play. In the first two periods, I thought it looked like we were just trying to get through the game,” Sullivan said. “…I think when we scored, it gave us a little boost of energy on the bench and we were able to get some momentum…”
Pittsburgh Penguins Report Card
Tristan Jarry: A
Jarry wasn’t spectacular, but he was very good. He made a dozen underrated saves and kept the Penguins in the game.
Mark Friedman: F
Friedman put the defense shorthanded for most of the game and put the team in a bad spot by killing a major penalty. That’s the kind of stuff that gets a player a ticket into the doghouse…or worse.
“(The officials said) it was what it was. It was pretty obvious what happened,” Sullivan said. “…I certainly appreciate us sticking up for one another in those instances but we’ve got to do it in a smarter way.”
Friedman is also the victim of some bad luck. Sullivan conceded Friedman was supposed to play Thurday night in Detroit, but his sore leg from blocking a shot on Tuesday night put Ruhwedel into the lineup. Friedman’s early exit on Saturday essentially denied the coaches a chance to evaluate him or his chance to compete for the third-pair spot.
They were the Penguins’ best forward line, but that’s a low bar on Saturday night. The line was nearly even on shot attempts for and against (10-11).
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the line was even at scoring chances (5-5).
Kapanen is just magic with the puck. When he wanted, he weaved through the offensive zone with the puck and controlled the walls like he had the deed. Zucker participated well, too, but neither did enough to get to the net for Grade A chances from their work.
Herb Brooks used to shout that you can’t score a goal from the wall with your (backside) to the net. That was true on Saturday night.
You had to look for Heinen and Carter. Invisible. The Penguins’ top-line players combined for four shots, but just one at 5v5–Rust’s goal.
It was the final preseason game, and not much at stake for them, but if the Penguins lean on them in Tampa Bay and Florida before Crosby returns, they’ll want to play a little bit harder.
Marcus Pettersson: D
The Pittsburgh Penguins played with just five defensemen for most of the game, but Pettersson set the low watermark with 12 scoring chances against. He didn’t defend the netfront well enough, and his coverages got a few free whacks at Tristan Jarry.
Pettersson will be paid well this season, but he should be a little worried. When P.O. Joseph flips the switch and brings the game, Pettersson will find himself in trouble.
Drew O’Connor: B-
He had high spots. He almost set up Evan Rodrigues for a game-winner late in the third period, and he had some face time near the net. He was about even in terms of shots and shots allowed when on the ice.
It may have been his least effective preseason game. That’s a bit concerning because Saturday night was the closest to an NHL lineup the Penguins have seen, but also take it with a grain of salt because the team wasn’t on their toes.