The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 3-2 overtime victory against Columbus Sunday at PPG Paints Arena was, in many ways, a typical preseason game.
It included lots of players who won’t be in the NHL this season, if ever, and plenty of nondescript hockey, all of which made for a largely forgettable afternoon.
But there’s a pretty good chance Corey Andonovski took some good memories out of it.
Oh. he isn’t the guy who got the game-winner at 1:58 of the extra period — that distinction went to Jason Zucker — but he did just about everything else a guy could hope for while playing in an NHL game for the first time.
Andonovski, signed as a free agent out of Princeton this spring, scored a game-tying goal with 54.1 seconds remaining in regulation and was credited with a game-high seven hits.
But while the goal was nice and his physicality throughout the game was hard to miss, it was a sequence during the second period that really stood out.
Andonovski, who is 6 foot 1, 195 pounds, skated through a hard check at the Blue Jackets’ blue line, then threw a big hit of his own just a few seconds later, after he got deeper in the Columbus zone.
“I probably should have chipped (the puck) a little bit earlier and taken myself out of harm’s way,” he said. “But ultimately, I saw he was coming, so I just tried to let the puck go and get down on the guy as soon as I could.
“I was just trying to brace myself for those kind of hits. Obviously, you don’t want to put yourself in a bad situation. I was fortunate enough to come out of that one unscathed.”
The sequence surely did not go unnoticed by the coaches and front-office officials who were looking on.
“It was the first opportunity for me to see him,” said assistant coach Mike Vellucci, who ran the Penguins’ bench. “He’s a big, strong player who has good speed. … He had a great game.”
‘We’re working through it’
Zucker was named the game’s No. 1 star and undoubtedly felt pretty good about scoring the game-winner, but said he “felt terrible” during the game.
“It’s preseason,” he said. “You have to work through it. I feel like I didn’t make a lot of the plays I should have. That’s the way it goes. We’re working through it. It’s Game 1. That’s why we play preseason games.”
Devane throws a haymaker
There was a frightening incident early in the third period, when a pair of heavyweights — Penguins winger Jamie Devane and Columbus defenseman Ben Harpur — dropped their gloves and began trading punches.
Devane eventually landed one that felled Harpur, leaving him bleeding and prone on the ice for a couple of minutes.
Harpur eventually was helped off the ice by a couple of teammates, but did not return to the game and is being treated for what the Blue Jackets described as an “upper-body injury.”
Devane said he doesn’t know precisely where his punch landed, and was quick to add that, “I just hope he’s OK.”
Devane, who is 6 foot 5, 239 pounds, said, “I’ve been on both ends of it. I’ve been the guy … You obviously hate to see something like that, but it just kind of comes with the territory sometimes.”
Both Columbus goals came on the power play, and both Pittsburgh Penguins goalies acquitted themselves fairly well throughout the game.
Casey DeSmith stopped 12 of 13 shots in 31 minutes, five seconds of work, while Filip Lindberg turned aside 13 of 14 while playing 28 minutes, 54 seconds.
Former Penguins winger James Neal, who is in the Columbus training camp on a tryout, scored the Blue Jackets’ first goal.
Neal drew a hooking minor from Andonovski at 3:21 of the second period, then took — and failed to win — the subsequent faceoff.
The Penguins seemed to lose track of him, however, and Neal was left unchecked near the right post before taking a pass from Jack Roslovic, who had picked off a Mark Friedman pass behind the goal line, and pushing a shot into the net.
Youth served in Columbus
The Blue Jackets’ lineup featured no fewer than six teenagers, including both goaltenders.
The group included forwards Luca Del Bel Belluz and James Malatesta, defensemen Marco Denton Mateychuk and David Jiricek and goalies Pavel Cajan and Nolan Lalonde.
It made sense to dress them for the afternoon game rather than the one at Nationwide Arena, since it would have been a school night.
The youngest player for the Pittsburgh Penguins was center Sam Poulin, who is 21.
“I spent four years in college, so I’m a little bit older than a teenager,” Andonovski said. “But no matter what, it’s everybody’s first preseason game.”