The Pittsburgh Penguins again lost multiple players due to injury but gutted out an impressive road-win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Penguins lost winger Bryan Rust and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel but kept their game simple. Jared McCann scored a pair of goals in the Penguins 5-2 win.
The Penguins also leapfrogged Columbus into third place in the Metro Division.
After being scoreless in 14 straight games, Patric Hornqvist earned his second assist in two games, later in the first period. Hornqvist skated around the perimeter of the offensive zone and shoveled a one-handed pass to Sidney Crosby, who immediately snapped a pass to Jake Guentzel.
Guentzel (29) unleashed a one-timer to which bolstered the hobbled Penguins. The goal also seemed to affect Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky who fought off the next couple of shots.
Bobrovsky didn’t fight the shot from Jared McCann in the final two minutes of the first period. Behind two defensemen, McCann (12) whipped a high shot which Bobrovsky didn’t see.
“It says a lot about our character. Guys stepped up,” McCann said. “We’ve had bad luck with injuries, but we have to keep pushing forward.”
Bryan Rust was injured in the first period while chasing a loose puck. Before he could play the puck, newly acquired Columbus defenseman Adam McQuaid shoved him into the boards. Rust appeared to have difficulty putting pressure on his right leg as he hobbled off the ice.
Bobrovsky’s struggles continued into the second period. Just over one minutes into the period, Evgeni Malkin’s (20) slap shot from the just inside the blue line grazed defenseman Seth Jones and flew past Bobrovsky.
The three-goal lead bug bit the Penguins again, however. A few minutes after being staked the third goal, Columbus took advantage of a delayed penalty against Patric Hornqvist. Oliver Bjrokstrand streaked into the Penguins zone before Crosby and Chad Ruhwedel could close on him. Bjorkstrand (12) fired a wrist shot over Penguins goalie Matt Murray’s glove side.
Then a few minutes later, Columbus inched closer via a power-play goal. Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz blocked the initial shot but the puck caromed directly to Cam Atkinson (35), who didn’t hesitate to snap it into the open net.
The Penguins tightened their game after Columbus got close. Later in the third period, McCann chipped the puck past Columbus defender Scott Harrington and bore down on Bobrovsky. McCann slipped a wrister underneath Bobrovksy’s arm for the backbreaking goal.
“It was a hard-fought game. I think we defended really hard as a group of five out there,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “The guys stepped up through injuries. I thought they did a really good job.”
Crosby (27) added the empty net goal in the final seconds.
Matt Murray made a few sparkling saves in the third period to preserve the Penguins lead. He stopped 21 of 23 shots. The Penguins defense did yeoman’s work to limit Columbus to only 23 shots with just five defensemen.
Jack Johnson and Justin Schultz served as the Penguins top defensive pairing and did not yield an even strength goal. It was Johnson’s first game in Columbus since he signed a free agent contract with the Penguins in July. Johnson spent parts of seven seasons with Columbus.
Bobrovsky stopped only 22 of 26.
Columbus has one game in hand on the Penguins but now trail the Penguins by one point.