Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 2: Bobrovsky pulled from loss
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury makes one of his 37 saves on a shot by the Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky.
PITTSBURGH — A flurry of second-period goals might have ended the Blue Jackets’ chances last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. But it was a Fleury on the other end of the ice that dashed them from the start.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had 37 saves and was particularly sharp early, leading the Penguins to a 4-2 win before 18,620 at Consol Energy Center.
While Fleury was fabulous, Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky struggled mightily. He was pulled after allowing two goals in the first 3:01 of the second period as the lead grew to 3-0.
“Bob has bailed us out time after time,” Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu said. “If anybody gets a mulligan, he’s the guy. Sometimes you’re just not on top of your game. If anybody is going to get back on track quick, it’s him. … We know he’s going to be there for us.”
Chris Kunitz, Brandon Sutter, Kris Letang and Jayson Megna scored for the Penguins, who had two power-play goals and led 4-0 at the midpoint of the game.
The Blue Jackets got goals from Derek MacKenzie and Ryan Johansen, but it was never close. Bobrovsky stopped only 10 of 13 shots; his replacement, Curtis McElhinney, stopped 13 of 14 in the final 36 minutes.
The two teams meet again tonight at Nationwide Arena.
“Anytime you lose a game against a team and play them the next day, it’s the best situation possible,” Johansen said. “We get to sleep on it tonight, think on things, go over what we can do better, and then go out there and outcompete their players.”
Coach Todd Richards hinted at lineup changes, specifically putting defenseman Nikita Nikitin in the lineup after five straight scratches.
Last night’s game was the opposite of several games down the stretch last season, when Bobrovsky was the main architect of the Blue Jackets’ 19-5-5 finish.
“It catches you off-guard,” Richards said of Bobrovsky’s recent struggles. “Last year, Bob bailed everybody out, even the coach. He’ll get there. I know he will. But you can see how it affects our team. We did some good things. But there were a lot of times last year when our goalie outplayed the other team’s goalie. At least tonight, it was the opposite.”
The Penguins scored three goals in 4:24 to push a 1-0 lead to 4-0.
Sutter beat Bobrovsky by putting the puck between the goalie’s legs off a rush to make it 2-0 only 1:10 into the second. Letang’s shot from the point on a power play got through Bobrovsky’s glove and trickled into the net. That made it 3-0 and sent McElhinney into the game.
The Blue Jackets had several scoring chances snuffed out by Fleury, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders this season after flaming out badly in the playoffs last spring. Only MacKenzie (9:56 of the second) and Johansen (45.1 seconds remaining) could solve him.
“What is it, 22 hours? We’ll be lining up against the same team again,” Richards said. “We might have to do more (against Fleury), score some more dirty goals.”