|Classic 2013-14 Playoff Imagery|
The CBJ took a step forward tonight, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in a shoot-out. The CBJ did not beat the Pens in the regular season last year, so the win represents an incremental gain for our battered team, and helps to erase a 6 game losing streak earlier in the season.
Nationwide Arena was absolutely rocking tonight, as the CBJ faithful did battle with a throaty Penguins contingent. It was very much of a playoff atmosphere in the barn tonight, which seemed fitting for the level of hockey played. Both teams brought their lunch bucket, and their brass knuckles, and proceeded to get it on. It was a very intense hockey game, periodically interrupted by fights, including the semblance of a line brawl in the second period. The best part was our players sticking up for each other.
Nick Foligno started the scoring with a power play goal, a tap in he kicked up to his stick, earned by camping at the edge of the crease as the man unmarked by the penalty kill. That got the CBJ an early lead, and they really ramped up the pressure, skating hard and playing physically. This was exemplified by a play in which Sutter was winning a board battle down low in our defensive zone, and Jack Johnson came from in front of the net to plant a shoulder into his chest that lifted him off his skates, and literally 'knocked him on his ass'. (That one was a beauty, and really seemed to get Jack engaged in the game).
The Penguins took exception to being physically dominated, which caused things to go off the rails at the 15:13 mark of the first period. At that point the game began to resemble a square dance, with multiple partners going all over the ice. Leopold took matters into his own hands, as did Sheriff Dalton Prout, who did a little peace keeping with his fists, and Steve Downie earned his first misconduct of the night.
In spite of coming as close as you can come to dominating the Penguins for a period and a half, the CBJ still only had the 1-0 lead. Then at the 15:06 mark of the second, Blake Comeau lasered a shot over Bobrovsky's shoulder to to tie the game at 1. The period wound down with the customary pleasantries, charging, roughing, double minor for roughing, fighting majors, all indicating a rough and tumble game. The second period ended tied 1-1.
Early in the third period, with the Jackets on the power play from a boarding penalty, the Penguins blocked a shot at the blue line, and Letang was off to the races, scoring a short handed goal to put the Penguins up 2-1. Five minutes later, Boone Jenner was hauled down at the end of a breakaway, earning a penalty shot which he buried to tie the game. Five minutes later, Jack Johnson jumped up on the rush, and scored a beauty to give the CBJ the lead with a little over two minutes remaining. The Pens pulled their goal tender, and tied the game with about 11 seconds remaining to force over time.
The overtime period was plenty eventful, with both teams killing off 4 on 3 penalties, but there was no score, thus leading to a shoot out. Atkinson and Johansen promptly scored, Bobrovsky stopped two of their shooters, and the Jackets got the win.
Some real good things in this game. The fourth line was actually effective in this game, and gave us some solid puck possession in the offensive zone. They need to improve on that, and keep it going. There is a long way to come back, and we need the fourth line to provide the kind of possession that last year's line brought.
We need to learn to hit the empty net. It seems like we are sitting back in the zone and firing at the net instead of skating the puck out for a better shot. That means we keep icing the puck when protecting a slim lead at the end. It's time to start closing those games out in regulation.
Lastly, this is an overall step forward for the team. The Pens are kind of battered right now, but so are we, This is a regular season win over an elite team that we couldn't beat last year. A step forward for sure. The atmosphere was fantastic, a playoff atmosphere, making for a really great game experience in a sold out building.
Six wins in a row wipes out a 6 game losing streak in November. There's still a 9 game losing streak on the books, so a couple more wins to wipe that one off would be a good way to go. We'll see. Great hockey game, great time!
Editor's note: I don't know who did the graphic, but it's a beauty. It circulated around playoff time last year, and I got a chance to use it so I did. I'm not big on taking credit for other people's work, but I just don't know who to cite. It sure wasn't me. But it makes me chuckle.