Third period 'daggers' sink Blue Jackets in stinging loss to Pittsburgh Penguins

·7 min read
Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Bryan Rust (17) and defenseman Mike Matheson (5) celebrate a goal by center Sidney Crosby (87) during the third period of the NHL hockey game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Pittsburgh won 5-2.
Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Bryan Rust (17) and defenseman Mike Matheson (5) celebrate a goal by center Sidney Crosby (87) during the third period of the NHL hockey game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Pittsburgh won 5-2.

This one stung quite a bit.

It wasn’t like the sting of the drubbing the Blue Jackets took a week ago in Florida, but their 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night at Nationwide Arena left its own kind of mark.

After battling the Penguins to a 2-2 tie through two periods, in front of a sellout crowd that included a large number of Penguins fans, Columbus was undone in the third by a series of unfortunate events.

A puck that appeared to be stopped trickled through goalie Joonas Korpisalo’s pads and rolled over the goal line to break the tie on a shot by Mike Matheson. Penalties committed 22 seconds apart by Sean Kuraly and Alexandre Texier gave the Penguins a 5-on-3 power play that Sidney Crosby used to score his second goal in his 12th career hat trick.

There was also an overturned Blue Jackets goal by Max Domi that could’ve tied it, had teammate Emil Bemstrom not entered the offensive zone early. Captain Boone Jenner took a late retaliation penalty, cross-checking Brian Dumoulin after the Penguins' defenseman hit him high, and Crosby's third goal — scored into an empty net — put the finishing touch on a mind-numbing mountain of misfortune for the Jackets.

Everything they’d accomplished in the first two periods, building off a 2-1 victory in Philadelphia, evaporated in crunch time against one of the Metropolitan Division’s best teams. The Blue Jackets unraveled in about eight minutes, one thing after another just bonking them over the head, figuratively, until Penguins hats were literally raining onto the ice after Crosby’s third goal.

“Five things, almost, happened in that third period, big events, and every single one was a dagger for us,” Kuraly said. “So, what do you do? You’ve just got to try to respond to them and turn it around. Sometimes, that’s the way it goes. Sometimes, it’s harder to get a win.”

Sometimes wins just slip away, though, crashing into a thousand pieces.

"They were just fortunate enough to get it in the third and we weren’t,” said Jenner, who scored his team-leading 16th goal for a short-lived 2-1 lead late in the first. “It’s too bad with the offside. We tie it up there, it could be a different end. It’s just … we couldn’t get one in the third.”

Referee Frederick L'Ecuyer (17) waves off a goal by Columbus Blue Jackets center Max Domi (16) due to replay showing a player offsides during the third period of the NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Pittsburgh won 5-2.
Referee Frederick L'Ecuyer (17) waves off a goal by Columbus Blue Jackets center Max Domi (16) due to replay showing a player offsides during the third period of the NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Pittsburgh won 5-2.

Blue Jackets 'implode’ after Max Domi’s overturned goal

Overcoming Matheson’s squeaker against Korpisalo was a tough hill to climb, but Max Domi got the Blue Jackets to the mountaintop with a nice power-play goal scored with a wrist shot through traffic from the left faceoff circle.

Then, just as quickly, it vanished.

The Penguins’ bench called for a review of the zone entry preceding the goal, which happened 25 seconds before the goal lamp lit up, and replays showed Bemstrom crossing the blue line by about a foot ahead of the puck — which entered the zone on the opposite side.

That Jackets' wheels loosened quite a bit afterward.

Kuraly bumped into Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry 1:36 later, Texier swatted a puck over the glass 22 seconds after that for a delay-of-game minor and then Crosby scored during a 5-on-3 just 1:20 after the door to the penalty box closed for a second time.

The Penguins led 4-2 and Crosby polished off his hat trick with 1:58 to play.

“We played a heck of a game,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “No issue with our effort, our compete. That’s what happened … we go offside. Incredible to me that we go offside. That hurts. And within a minute-something, we’re in the box … emotion’s a great thing, but you’ve got to be really careful in those moments. We were one shot away there. We were right in it and then we just implode.”

Columbus Blue Jackets center Gustav Nyquist (14) whiffs on the first shot but followed it with a goal as he skates past Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) during the first period of the NHL hockey game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.
Columbus Blue Jackets center Gustav Nyquist (14) whiffs on the first shot but followed it with a goal as he skates past Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) during the first period of the NHL hockey game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

Gustav Nyquist becoming ‘power killer’ for Blue Jackets

Gustav Nyquist got the Blue Jackets into the game with a shorthanded goal to tie it 1-1 at 10:40 of the first. It sparked something in his team and made the next 30-plus minutes a lot more exciting.

Nyquist didn’t have much experience killing penalties before signing with the Blue Jackets in 2019, but he’s now leading the NHL with four shorthanded goals in just 38 games.

This one started much the same as his previous three. Nyquist swiped the puck inside the Columbus blue line, skated up the ice with it and beat Penguins starter Casey DeSmith from a sharp angle after flubbing the initial attempt.

Nyquist missed last season recovering from shoulder surgery, so his only other shorthanded goal prior to this season was Dec. 21, 2019 against the New Jersey Devils — and that one was the second of two shorthanded empty-netters in a 5-1 victory at Nationwide Arena.

Nyquist's shorthanded goals this season were scored against the Vegas Golden Knights (Nov. 20), Vancouver Canucks (Nov. 26), Carolina Hurricanes (Jan. 1) and his tally Friday – which was also his 10th goal of the season. The four shorthanded goals are one shy of tying Rick Nash’s franchise record five in 2008-09.

Columbus Blue Jackets center Boone Jenner (38) scores a goal past Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith (1) during the first period of the NHL hockey game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.
Columbus Blue Jackets center Boone Jenner (38) scores a goal past Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith (1) during the first period of the NHL hockey game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner continues scoring big goals

It was short-lived, but Jenner gave the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead with 1:14 left in the first period by poking the puck past DeSmith after getting it off a bounce from his own shot off the glass behind the net.

Jakub Voracek lifted the stick of a Penguins defender right in front of the net, allowing Jenner an opening to swat the puck at DeSmith – who had it slip through him and bounce over the goal line. The goal was Jenner’s 16th of the season, most on the team, and continued his scoring surge since having the captain’s ‘C’ attached to his jersey.

Jenner also dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 73% of his 15 draws including 5 of 7 against Crosby, the Penguins’ captain. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, Crosby matched Jenner’s goal 45 seconds later to tie it 2-2 with 29 seconds left in the first.

Sean Kuraly gets promotion in Blue Jackets’ lineup

The Blue Jackets didn’t hold a morning skate, so pregame warmup was the first look at Larsen’s forward combinations. There was a surprise in line rushes, as Kuraly moved from the third line to center the second with Nyquist and Bjorkstrand as wingers.

The move pitted Kuraly against Crosby’s line much of the night, which is one of the NHL’s most difficult challenges. Crosby netted a hat trick, but Kuraly wasn’t on the ice for any of them. He also finished with seven hits in 17:03 and logged 4:42 killing penalties.

A puck trickles into the net behind Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (70) off the stick of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson during the third period of the NHL hockey game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Pittsburgh won 5-2.
A puck trickles into the net behind Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (70) off the stick of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson during the third period of the NHL hockey game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Pittsburgh won 5-2.

Bitter end for Blue Jackets’ goalie Joonas Korpisalo

Korpisalo allowed four goals on 30 shots, but he was outstanding most of the game. He stopped multiple breakaways, got in front of open one-timers and looked razor sharp against most of the Penguins’ best scoring chances.

All but one of the goals he allowed were caused by screens in front of him or great passes, especially on Crosby’s 5-on-3 tally, but the one that will haunt him was Matheson’s to start the Jackets’ meltdown in the third.

It was a hard shot from the high slot, launched with a one-time slapper, but Korpisalo appeared to soak it up between his pads. About a second later, the puck squirted out behind him and rolled over the goal line before Nyquist could get there to swat it away.

It was a painful goal to allow, but it was also in line with Korpisalo’s luck this season, which has been anything but good — on and off the ice. The upside is that he’s back to looking like the goalie who split the net with Elvis Merzlikins the past two years, which the Jackets will need with a crammed schedule in February.

Korpisalo is also a pending free agent and could play his way into a landing spot with a playoff contender before the Mar. 21 trade deadline.

bhedger@dispatch.com

@BrianHedger

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Blue Jackets 'implode' against Pittsburgh Penguins