This game was a total victory for the “wait till Beau Bennett comes back” crowd.
Bennett was easily the best Penguins forward throughout the game, and he got the GWG in the third. It was a breath of fresh air seeing a forward other than Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz or Neal scoring a big goal.
It is hard not to get excited about the possibilities of what this could mean for a team struggling to find secondary scoring, and we are prepared for the “Bennett X Factor” columns over the next few weeks.
Overall this was a fantastic game. If these two teams meet in the playoffs, it should be a high entertainment. The Jackets are probably an elite goal scorer away from really being dangerous, but they still have some players.
Ryan Johansen is a monster. The 21-year-old had a ton of opportunities and looks like he could be the next big thing. And he makes us think about Scarlett.
If it wasn’t for Marc-Andre Fleury, this game would have gone a little differently. There are still some major issues on D. It was even more noticeable in this one because Olli Maatta was finally given a night off.
With the win, the Penguins clinched a playoff berth for the eighth straight season.
The Jackets were in the Pens’ mouth in the first. The Pens were going into the lion’s den naked. They had trouble keeping up with the Jackets and took unlimited penalties.
First was Adams hooking Boone Jenner. The Pens killed that off, and then somewhere off in the distance Bortuzzo and Foligno were trying to establish their dominance.
20 seconds after that fight, Despres basically tackled Cam Atkinson behind the net, and it was another Columbus power play. But the ROOT broadcast team of Steigerwald and Errey couldn’t believe the call was made, talking about how Despres gets picked on by referees and that veteran defensemen wouldn’t get called for it. Meanwhile, it was probably the most blatant hold of 2014 in the entire NHL. After ROOT’s stupid cut shot, that was killed, too.
Then the Pens got their only PP of their period. Kunitz was left all alone with the puck near the goal line, but he just stood there. Before you knew it, some Jacket came in and gave him the business from behind. After that play was over, Jack Johnson went into dick-mode overdrive.
Engelland went to the box, and the Pens killed that off.
All told, the Pens were getting close to a goal. If they weren’t in the box for 6 minutes, they may have mustered enough to have the lead after one. But nope. 0-0.
MAF and McElhinney exchanged big saves early in the second on Dubinsky and Stempniak.
Business was really picking up. The Jackets were in MAF’s basement. Big saves. Play went the other way, and Kunitz got jobbed. But he kept trucking. He waited till a Jacket went down and fed Stempniak, who almost put one home. Pens didn’t do anything on the PP.
Then another Pens PP. With 5 seconds left on that, Beau Bennett barreled down the alley and drew another penalty, so the Pens would have a faceoff and a play of 5-on-3. All of that was killed. Those 4 minutes of watching the Pens PP was like watching that guy jump out of the subway and burn alive in Volcano.
Jack Johnson pisses off Crosby and the ROOT broadcast team as much as any other D-man in the NHL, which is another thing that would make a playoff series unreal.
MAF vs. The World
A few times in the third, the Blue Jackets had the Pens running around in front of MAF. Then a big moment was Brooks Orpik swinging and missing on a big hit in the neutral zone. The Jackets were all over Fleury after that. He faced 15 shots in the third, stopping 14.
In the other corner, Curtis McElhinney was equally as stellar. He played the game of his life for two periods. Crosby kept trying to invent some spin move, but McElhinney was handling it.
Two goals in a minute
Crosby and Kunitz are good at many things. But their two-man transition game is disgusting. Crosby found Kunitz at just the right time, and he had the Kunitz Release™. 1-0.
It was a crippling goal to give up for Columbus. And it got instantly got worse. For the first time in his career, leaving his feet to block a shot helped Bortuzzo. He knocked a puck away from a Jacket and sprung Beau Bennett on a 2-on-1.
Bennett looked McElhinney off and then fired one home. 2-0.
Bennett deserved the goal; he worked his ass off all game.
Kunitz took a penalty, and the Jackets basically had one last chance, and they were a little gun-shy on the power play. But finally James Wisniewski waited for Rob Scuderi to stand right in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.
That is just awful. Hopefully Scuderi has a press conference to call himself out. As @jaschiff155 points out, this has become a Scuderi trademark.
Calvert got credit for the goal. 2-1.
That was the life the Jackets needed. And they blitzed the Penguins for the final 3:08.
The Final 20 Seconds
The Blue Jackets went all-in. They entered the zone with Matt Calvert carrying the puck and skating behind the net. He flipped the puck in front, and Ryan Johansen had the world on his stick. But watch the play Kunitz makes (Kunitz comes in top left):
The Penguins are extremely lucky Kunitz saved the day. Really sloppy defensive coverage with the game on the line. What the hell happened?
- Crosby followed Calvert around the net. Crosby is too smart, so someone else goofed.
- Robert Bortuzzo refuses to stay on his feet when the puck is down low. But it is a reasonable play to try in this situation. Not on him, that.
- Brooks Orpik has two guys in front. Nothing on him.
- Let’s go back to the Jackets entering the zone:
Down low, coverage is fine. But note the circle:
Johansen is Gibbons’ guy.
Don’t lose him, Gibbons:
Gibbons, don’t lose him.
Son of a bitch.
The moment was too big for Gibbons. WHY IS HE ON THE ICE???? Was Tanner Glass or Craig Adams not available? Kunitz saved the day, but the Penguins got away with one.
- Via @zoeclaire_ Jason Megna’s shift chart:
- Megna probably didn’t even have to shower after the game.
- Bennett’s got to find a better celebration. Probably something Beach Boys-inspired and stupid.
- You nervous about a Pens-Jackets playoff series? Us too.