The February temperatures aren’t the only thing heating up in Columbus, Ohio. Hockey games at Nationwide Arena are too, with each one so meaningful at this time of the year. With the Pittsburgh Pengins visiting on Friday night, the atmosphere inside the sold out building was intense. In what was a well-played, evenly matched game, the Columbus Blue Jackets came out ahead as they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime.
It was obvious early on that both teams were feeling each other out. Head Coach John Tortorella called it “a bit of a struggle” for his team. While there were good scoring chances on both sides, they were often set up by turnovers or sloppy plays by the opposition. Both goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Murray, who rank fourth and sixth in goals allowed average, respectively, were solid in net. As the 20th minute ticked off the clock in the first period, the game remained scoreless.
The CBJ came out strong in the second. Just 1:33 in, William Karlsson sent a puck between his legs from behind the net into the crease, where Ryan Murray gathered it and sent a backhander past Murray to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
The Jackets controlled play for several more minutes until Penguins defenseman Ian Cole found the back of the net immediately off a faceoff win in the offensive offensive zone after Columbus iced the puck. It was a perfectly-placed shot that a well-screened Bobrovsky never saw.
At the 7:48 mark of the second period, the Blue Jackets appeared to regain the lead. Just seconds after an official raised his arm to signal a delayed hooking penalty, Oliver Bjorkstrand gathered a bouncing puck in front of Matt Murry and sent it home. Unfortunately for the CBJ, the referees ruled the Penguins touched the puck, which immediately would have called play dead with the Jackets going on the power play. It was actually the second goal waived off by the Jackets on the evening, but the refs did not take that into account of course when making the ruling. The Penguins killed off the penalty and the teams ultimately went into the second intermission tied at one.
As sides switched once again to start the third period, the result was the same as the first. A goalless 20 minutes sent the game to overtime.
Although Columbus won the opening faceoff, the Penguins controlled the majority of play in OT. Luckily for the Jackets, overtime rules don’t grant the win based on time of possession. Seth Jones recovered the puck off a Pens turnover and found Cam Atkinson streaking up the ice. Atkinson dropped the puck back to Brandon Dubinsky, who joined the play and entered the offensive zone. Dubinsky made a nice toe-drag move to get around defenseman Trevor Daley and bury the game winner to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 victory.
Faceoffs were a big reason why the Jackets had so much success on Friday night. Whenever the Penguins had something going and Bob made a big save, more often than not the CBJ came away with the faceoff win. In fact, the team won 41 of 61 face offs on the evening.
After the game, Nick Foligno was optimistic about how the team has played over the past few games. They had a good showing against the Red Wings, played well against the Rangers in a loss, beat the Maple Leafs, and now the Penguins. The CBJ captain said:
Results will come because of the way you’re playing, and the feeling in here is that we’re playing the right way.
The Jackets will look to keep it going Sunday against the Nashville Predators as they come into town for the first time this season. Although the Penguins gained one point on Friday night, the Jackets could have a chance to take back second place in the division with a win on Sunday night in their last game before a five-day break.