Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 0: Columbus offense stifled
Blue Jackets are limited to season-low 19 shots as Penguins complete sweep
Penguins left wing Jussi Jokinen, right, celebrates with teammates after getting an empty-net goal in the third period as the Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky skates by.
The season-high 39 shots that the Blue Jackets took at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ net on Friday night did little more than whet the offensive appetite of coach Todd Richards.
But last night, he was left hungry.
The Penguins, the Metropolitan Division leaders, limited the Blue Jackets to a season-low 19 shots, and won 3-0 at Nationwide Arena to sweep a home-and-home series.
The Blue Jackets wasted a solid performance by backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who saved 13 of 14 shots in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky on Friday and saved 24 of 26 last night.
“For whatever reason, a lot of the good things we did (on Friday in a 4-2 loss) … there was little to none of that tonight,” Richards said.
Penguins backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff made his third career start after allowing a total of 10 goals in his first two, but the skilled and speedy Penguins laid claim to the space in front of him and got grittier as the game progressed. The Blue Jackets were outshot 10-3 in the first period and went without a shot for the final 15:54 of the period.
The Penguins had a 22-10 shot advantage after the second period. They also had a 1-0 lead after defenseman Deryk Engelland ripped a pass from Joe Vitale past the glove of McElhinney at 6:46. The cushion grew early in the third, when Blue Jackets forward Blake Comeau inadvertently poked a centering pass by Chris Kunitz past McElhinney 47 seconds into the period. Comeau was attempting to redirect the puck away from the far post, where Sidney Crosby was hovering.
The own goal seemed to take the air out of half of the arena.
The other half, occupied by Penguins fans, was elated.
“You can’t even call it the difference-maker because we didn’t even score a goal,” Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky said. “If that doesn’t go in, maybe they win 1-0.”
Jussi Jokinen added an empty-net goal in the final minute. Zatkoff, who entered with an .818 save percentage, earned his first career shutout.
“We all knew who was between the pipes,” Blue Jackets center Derek MacKenzie said. “That’s where you give them a lot of credit. They found a way to clog things up. Certainly, we would have loved to have the shots we had in Pittsburgh, but it didn’t happen.”
The Blue Jackets lost their third straight and dropped three games below .500 for the second time this season.
Richards switched all three of his defensive pairs. Defenseman Nikita Nikitin, a healthy scratch in the previous five games, replaced David Savard in the lineup. Richards put Nikitin next to Dalton Prout and paired rookie Ryan Murray with Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski with Fedor Tyutin. Richards also reunited Marian Gaborik, Cam Atkinson and Dubinsky on the top line.
“We were trying to do some things to get more lines involved offensively,” Richards said. “Did it help? I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t seem like it did. I thought we defended hard. There was some desperation, but it came when there was a mistake made or there was an opening for Pittsburgh.
“But I don’t know that we had the desperation when we climbed over the boards to start our shifts.”