Sidney Crosby scored with just over two minutes remaining. The Pittsburgh Penguins captain prevented Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins from catching a high shot, then poked the puck into a yawning cage for the game-winner. The Penguins beat Columbus 3-2 at Nationwide Arena on Sunday night.
The Penguins scored two goals in the final eight minutes to tie the game and win. It was their second consecutive win.
Casey DeSmith stopped 32 of 34. Elvis Merzlikins stopped 37 of 40, but took the loss.
“He was phenomenal. He was confident back there. He was making big saves for us. And I think when you have that, that kind of rock back there and we have that in both of our boys, it’s nice that it breeds confidence kind of throughout the lineup,” Rust said.
Columbus head coach Brad Larsen challenged Crosby’s goal (16), but officials quickly ruled a good goal because Merzlikins left the crease to make the catch and the goalie initiated the contact with Crosby. So, the Penguins had a power play for most of the final two minutes.
“It’s a huge goal, at such a big time, you know? I just loved our resilience tonight. It was a hard-fought game and I think (Crosby) personified it,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
Midway through the third period, the Penguins tied the game. Sean Kuraly slew-footed Evgeni Malkin midway through the third period. Instead of a major penalty, the Penguins red-hot power play only got two minutes for a high-sticking call. The power play is the second-ranked unit in the NHL at over 28% since Malkin returned to the lineup.
After nearly one minute of advantage time, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan burned his timeout so his PP1 had a chance to breathe and remain on the ice. It worked as Malkin who completed the tic-tac-toe play with an easy tip-in goal to tie the game, 2-2.
“I think that was just our chemistry coming together there. I think we talked about a lot of things out there and a lot of possibilities, and I think everybody kind of just knew where everyone was going to be and it just worked out nicely
Despite out chancing, vastly outshooting, and seemingly outplaying their opponent, the Penguins trailed after two periods, 2-1.
Brian Dumoulin was victimized for a second time midway through the second period. Whether his clearing pass hit the official or the problematic stanchion at Nationwide Arena, was unclear. His pass never left the zone and Jack Roslovic (9) had a clean look at Casey DeSmith and lasered the goal top-shelf.
One day after a tight, physical game against the York Rangers, the Penguins had a couple of surprising performances against Columbus. Kasperi Kapanen was the subject of a PHN shift diary on Saturday which had negative conclusions. On Saturday, he didn’t attempt a shot. In the first period on Sunday evening, he had two shots on goal including a high-danger scoring chance and one miss.
In the final minute of the first period, Kapanen pounced on a loose puck in the Columbus zone and took it straight to the net. Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins stopped Kapanen’s chance, but Merlikins was knicked by his own defenseman and lost his balance momentarily. Before the goalie had a chance to get settled, Chad Ruhwedel (2) whipped the puck into the net.
Kapanen assisted, which was his first point in 13 games. A few minutes earlier, Kapanen nearly earned an assist with a dogged back check. He stole the puck and sprang Evan Rodrigues on a breakaway, but Rodrigues hit the post.
Columbus struck first. Early in the first period, Brian Dumoulin committed a turnover at the defensive blue line, then missed the following centering pass. Oliver Bjorkstrand (17) one-timed a pass past Casey DeSmith.
Midway through the second period, the Penguins had attempted 38 shots, compared to just 17 for Columbus, but a later period rally pulled Columbus closer and gave them a 2-1 lead.
Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust led all players with eight shots on goal.
DeSmith earned his fourth win in five starts. He stopped 32 of 34. Merzlikins stopped 37 of 40.