This wasn't the way the Blue Jackets wanted it to go.
The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated tonight and sent the Blue Jackets home with a beatdown, defeating Columbus 3-0 in PPG Paints Arena. The Blue Jackets started slowly and weren't able to recover. Sloppy offensively and defensively, the Blue Jackets have now put their playoff hopes on extremely thin ice — and they have no one to blame but themselves.
Here are three things from tonight.
Penguins' Continued Dominance
The Penguins are simply a riddle far too complicated for the Blue Jackets to solve. No matter what goaltender, defensive pairings, or line combinations Columbus tries, Pittsburgh seems to always get the better of them. In fact, the Penguins' victory tonight is their 8th straight over Columbus. The Blue Jackets have not defeated Pittsburgh in the regular season in over two years — the last time they did was on February 17, 2017, a 2-1 overtime win at Nationwide Arena.
With the loss tonight, Columbus falls 4 points behind the Penguins, and as the season begins to draw to a close, they need to win Saturday night to realistically have any shot at catching Pittsburgh before it's too late. Otherwise, they'll most likely be competing for the second wildcard spot, which most likely would see them play the juggernaut that is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have beaten the Blue Jackets soundly this season, and that's clearly not a matchup that Columbus would be excited about.
Joonas Korpisalo was one of the lone bright spots for the Blue Jackets tonight. Despite letting in two goals, he made several excellent stops on almost certain goals to give the Blue Jackets a chance to win. Thrown into this huge game by Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella, Korpisalo definitely could have flopped under the pressure, but he stood in admirably and played one of his best games this season. He saved 28 out of 30 shots, and his solid play tonight could see him get the nod more often down the stretch due to Sergei Bobrovsky's inconsistent play.
Nothing Going Forward
The Blue Jackets were second-best offensively all night, and it showed on the stat sheets. Per Natural Stat Trick, Columbus generated just 5 high-danger chances, opposed by Pittsburgh's 14. Matt Murray made a few good saves, but was never really tested by the best collection of offensive talent ever assembled in Columbus, which is becoming a theme. Questions have to be asked of leadership in the locker room, both coaches and players. With their wealth of forwards, the Blue Jackets should be near the top of the league offensively. Instead, they found themselves shut out tonight on the heels of an 18-shot, 1 goal performance against a New Jersey team fielding a mostly minor-league roster. They've scored three goals in their last four games, and given up 13. It's been 119 minutes since the Blue Jackets scored a goal.
Folks, it's not looking good for the Blue Jackets right now. The importance of what happens on Saturday night when the Penguins pay a visit to Nationwide Arena cannot be understated. The puck drops at 7:00pm.
Follow 1st Ohio Battery