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RECAP: Game One. Penguins beat Blue Jackets 4-3.

Derek MacKenzie had just scored on a shorthanded breakaway to make it 3-1 Jackets early in the second. Groans were being used as currency in CONSOL. But then the beast awoke.

More specifically, the Pens’ PP awoke. They answered the 3-1 deficit by scoring twice in the next 1:36. The PP went 2 for 3 on the night and gave up a shorty while the Jackets’ PP went 1 for 4. The Jackets were playing a great game until they started going to the box and got powerbombed by the Pens’ PP. Got to think they will build off that and play more disciplined in Game 2.

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WHO WAS A SURPRISE?

Brian Gibbons was a major factor in this game. He only played 11:45, but his speed and penalty killing came up huge in some spots. A combination of his play and Beau Bennett’s delivering hits and scoring a goal on the power play merited Gibbons being promoted to the top line in Game One.

TOUGH NIGHT FOR…

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Brutal times.
  • Had a few turnovers. The killer was one on the PP that led to the Jackets scoring a shorthanded goal.
  • He was pulled off the power play for that turnover.
  • Took two really bad penalties, including this spear.
  • Pierre McGuire was keeping tabs on Letang all game long, and he was relaying that the Pens’ coaching staff was trying to get him to calm down.

HOTTEST SPORTS TAKE

The Pens performed well for a team that hadn’t played a meaningful game since Nam. Biggest takeaway from Game One is that the Penguins got better as the game wore on, and the Jackets faded after an unrealistic start. The worst news for the Jackets: this may very well have been the best game they can be expected to play in this series.

FIRST PERIOD

Jimmer got the crowd going, but the Jackets came out jammed and ready to play. Within the first minute, you could tell the enormity of the stage wouldn’t matter to Columbus.

After some hits being thrown around, Dubinsky turned Martin back into a Devil and then fed some unrealistic backhand pass to Jack Johnson all alone in the slot. Johnson did some kind of dangle and ended up beating MAF. 1-0.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins

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On one of the next couple shifts, Bennett came in and laid out Murray on a punishing hit. It was basically Murray’s face getting in the way between Bennett’s elbow and the glass.

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Sounded like Bennett hurt himself somehow. Maybe that was why he was eventually taken off the top line? Who knows. No one knows in the playoffs.

Before the Pens could tie it, the Jackets were coming even harder. MAF had to make a huge save off a faceoff. Then the Pens evened it up. Bobs couldn’t corral a puck behind the net. Malkin got it and somehow fed Jokinen, who had like 7 Jackets around him. Jokinen was still able to fight off a stick-check and beat Bobs. 1-1. Sick pass by Malkin.

Next thing you know, the Pens were going to the box. It was an iffy interference call on Scuderi, but it reminded us of the Jonathan Ericsson interference penalty against Matt Cooke in Game 3. Led to Gonchar’s huge goal. What a player.

The Jackets scored on the Scuderi PP to make it 2-1.

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Possible Former Penguins Villain Alert was activated when Mark Letestu scored. Looks like he wants to eat your intestines in that pic. Also, Jack Johnson was outside of his mind in the first period.

AWKWARD MOMENT

Off the faceoff after Letestu scored, Ryan Mill announced the Jokinen goal. wtf is going on. Got to avoid those situations.

The Jackets played the entire period very smart. They played controlled and stayed out of the box. But they couldn’t keep it up, and someone checked Brian Gibbons into someone else’s butt. There wasn’t much time left, so the Penguins would get a bulk of the power-play time in the second.

Best player for Columbus in the first period: Brandon Dubinsky. Set the tone for the Jackets.

Best player for the Penguins in the first period: Evgeni Malkin. Created a bunch of chances, had an assist, and helped draw the late penalty.

SECOND PERIOD

This happened at the start of the second:

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Kris Letang had some trouble in the neutral zone, and it led to Derek MacKenzie getting a breakaway and beating MAF on…not the best shot all time. 3-1. 

Man, we’ve missed that shit feeling. Thankfully, we didn’t have to live with it for long because Money Bags Niskanen blasted one from the point, and it hit Beau Bennett on the way in. 3-2.

The Jackets were going to the box again 5 seconds later, and the Pens were gonna score again. This time, Money Bags took care of it himself. 3-3.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins

Two important side notes:

1. Brian Gibbons drew both penalties that led to both power-play goals.
2. The Penguins took Kris Letang off the power play in favor of Niskanen.

That Money Bags goal capped off a stretch of 5 goals in 5:07 of game time.

Tanner Glass went to the box for a crosscheck, and the Pens killed it. The game kind of got sloppy in the middle of the second.  Gibbons’ penalty-drawing prowess had given him a ticket to playing on the top line with Crosby and Kunitz.

A nice little kick pass or something sprung Sutter on a breakaway. Tyutin touched his leg, and Sutter may have tried to oversell it.

Great no-call. It even looks like Sutter’s leg buckles just before Tyutin touches him. Pens had another odd-man chance right after that, but Crosby and Kunitz couldn’t connect.

Scary play later when it looked like Letang speared Boone Jenner, but the Pens caught a break with it being seen as a slash. It actually turned out really good because the Pens’ PK spent about 80% of that penalty time in the Jackets’ zone.

MAF had to make a huge save on Calvert in the final minute. Circled that.

Best Blue Jacket of the second period: Boone Jenner. Jenner nearly willed the Jackets to a goal after a shift where he dished out three hits.

Best Penguin of the second period: Matt Niskanen. The period added like $2mill a year to his contract this off-season.

THIRD PERIOD

The teams went back and forth for the first five minutes. Gibbons almost cashed in on his new gig as a first liner, but he hit the post. Nothing really was happening until Bennett and Sutter got a 2-on-1. What a play by Paul Martin to knock a weak dump attempt out of mid-air to start it.
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Sutter went downtown julie brown. 4-3.
Columbus had hit the wall before the Sutter goal, so they had a steep hill to climb. The Pens had a chance to deliver the death blow on a PP, but then Letang took an interference penalty. In the offensive zone. On the power play.
Gibbons led the eventual penalty kill, and the Penguins saved face.

Penguins survive defensive mistakes

The Pens defense has a lot to clean up. First, Rob Scuderi got bailed out by the post after he got torched by Jack Skille:
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Then Brooks Orpik had an awful turnover in his own zone. He failed to clear, and this knucklepuck almost beat Fleury:
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Fleury had to make another save late, as well, when the Jackets pulled their goalie. The Jackets had two or three decent looks, but the Pens’ coverage in the zone was solid.

GAME.

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  • Crosby was wide right on most of his shots in Game 1. He was just an inch or so off his target. Have to think he is going to be on target in Game 2.
  • HNIC Playoff montage. [ PDL ]
  • First night of overtimechallenge is in the books. Leaderboard hereSign up here.

 

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