PITTSBURGH — From gritty hockey came pretty hockey. From corner battles and cycling came open wrist shots and dazzling assists. From tough hockey came the Pittsburgh Penguins biggest win of the season and their first over a Metro Division team since Oct. 4. The Penguins earned their 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Saturday.
Columbus set the ground rules in the opening minutes of the game. They ground the Penguins third line with Derick Brassard, Zach Aston-Reese and Dominik Simon to open defensive defenseman Scott Harrington for the first goal of the game, just five minutes into the first period.
However, the Penguins adapted. They played in the corners. They won more battles than they lost. And, most importantly, they looked for offense in the grime of physical hockey.
“We know when we play these guys, it’s going to be hard-nosed. It’s going to be a hostile game,” said Jake Guentzel who popped the hat trick. “We were ready for that and prepared for it. We did well tonight.”
Yes, they did. They won the battles they’ve been losing. They capitalized on chances they’ve been missing and limited the types of chances they’ve been yielding. Jake Guentzel lit the lamp, and lit the lamp, and lit it again with a hard battle in front of the net.
Tanner Pearson and Guetnzel scored rebound goals. And in the first 40 minutes, the Penguins committed just four giveaways, including just one in the second period. They were making good decisions with the puck…and a lot of good decisions.
Puck management and being able to combat Columbus’ physical play opened up more scoring opportunities as the Penguins also maintained high-forward responsibilities (at least in the first two periods. Things got a little sloppy in the third period). The responsible play allowed defenseman Kris Letang to take a couple of chances on the right wall and keep the puck alive. His second big pinch created Jake Guentzel’s first goal as Letang pinched and pushed the puck to Crosby down low.
Columbus wasn’t prepared for the Penguins defense activation.
And, it won’t show up on the stat sheet, but Jack Johnson and Jamie Oleksiak kept the grinding Columbus forwards, Brandon Dubinsky, Anthony DucLair and Josh Anderson away from the net.