If the Columbus Blue Jackets are staring down a first round playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins – and they very likely are – the Jackets will probably have to escape the quarterfinals without the luxury of home ice.
In the final meeting between the two teams this season, the Pens schooled the Blue Jackets, 4-1, Tuesday night in Pittsburgh to move three points ahead of Columbus in the Metropolitan Division standings.
No Evgeni Malkin? No problem.
Pittsburgh, playing with a lineup consisting of Sidney Crosby and a bunch of dudes you've never heard of, found scoring from unlikely places all evening.
The first goal to slip past Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, arriving at 18:51 of the first period, came on a slick Carter Rowney deflection of a Scott Wilsonpass on the doorstep. It was Rowney's second goal of the season.
The goal came off a turnover in the Blue Jackets zone when a Jack Johnson pass was too hot for Cam Atkinson. Wilson scooped up the turnover, put it towards net and Rowney did the rest.
“The first goal was just a bad play. It can't happen in this type of game,” Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said following the game. “We gave them a free one at the end of the first period. It was just a kick in the teeth.”
The Pens would tack two more on in the second.
Patric Hornqvist notched his 20th of the season midway through the period on a two-on-two rush, triggered by a blocked shot on Seth Jones at the other end.
Three minutes later, Brian Dumoulin scored on a wrap around that deflected off of Atkinson's skate into the open net. It was Dumoulin's first goal of the season, because of course it was.
The Penguins took a 3-0 lead into the second intermission, but made it 4-0 just 33 seconds into the third period when a Justin Schultz shot deflected off of Jake Guentzel in the crease.
Brandon Dubinsky finally got Columbus on the board with a shorthanded goal midway through the third, breaking up goalie Matt Murray's shutout, but accomplishing little else beyond that.
Bobrovsky stopped 23 shots on the night in the loss. After going 9-1-1 with a 1.09 goals-against average, .967 save percentage and four shutouts on the way to being named the NHL's second star for the month of March, the goalie has lost his last three, allowing nine goals combined to Chicago, Washington and Pittsburgh.
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After becoming the last NHL team to lose three-straight games this season, when they dropped a 3-2 decision to Washington Sunday, the Blue Jackets have now lost four in a row and are limping right when you don't really want to be limping as a team.
The Jackets have scored one or fewer goals in five of their last seven games.
“It's just a lack of execution offensively. I think they got a little puck luck tonight, too, on a couple of their goals,“ said Tortorella.
“There were some easy plays to be made and we didn't make those. We're out of synch, offensively. I didn't mind our effort at all. I thought our physical play was there. But we're just simply in a funk, offensively, and tonight didn't get any better.”
“Starting with our top guys, we've got to get some sort of situation where we're making some plays.”
Special Teams are Weird, Man
Dubinsky's shortie was the Blue Jackets' third shorthanded goal in the last nine games. They have zero power play goals during that span.
In fact, the Blue Jackets have just one power play goal in their last 13 games and are just 4 for 39 with the man advantage in the months of March and April.
The Blue Jackets welcome Winnipeg to Nationwide Arena Thursday (7p, FSOH). The teams have met just once this season, with the Jackets earning a 5-3 win in Manitoba on Dec. 29 – the 14th win in the franchise's 16-game winning-streak.