This game was defined by special teams and momentum. And instant replay.
There was only one even-strength goal in the game, by Fredrik Modin. Otherwise, it was a ton of odd-man play, usually coming in long stretches for one team or the other.
Jordan Staal made a compelling argument for staying in Pittsburgh. (He has two more games before the Penguins must make a decision: keep him in the NHL for the entire season, with no option to send him to the AHL, and start the clock toward unrestricted free agency, or return him to Peterborough for one more season in the juniors.) He had two short-handed goals in the game. The first was good ol' fashioned aggressive penalty killing. The second allowed the replay booth to earn its keep.
Staal had a step on his defender, who got caught waterskiing, so Staal was awarded a penalty shot on Fredrik Norrena. Staal swung right-to-left, and snapped off a wrister that clanged hard off the post. The ref emphatically waved off the goal, then the crowd at that end of the rink (not my end, unfortunately) started shouting, as did the Penguins' bench. We never saw it on the Jumbotron, but the replay booth had a replay angle that showed the puck ringing off the post, off the back of Norrena's leg, and slowly gliding into the net. And thus, Jordan Staal earned his third short-handed goal, in only the seventh game of his NHL career.
Otherwise, it was three power play goals. Two from the usual suspects, Michel Ouellet and Sergei Gonchar, and one from Evgeni Malkin. Adding Malkin to the power play has given it a crispness it hasn't had in years. With Ryan Whitney and Gonchar at the points, and Ouellet making the left post his favourite campground, Sid and Geno are getting room to create. And I'm not convinced they're entirely in sync yet. We'll see how scary this power play unit can be as the season rolls on.
Final score: Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 3, number of games it took last year's Pens to reach 4 wins: 15.
Stars of the game:
- Jordan Staal (2 SHG)
- Sergei Gonchar (1G, 1A)
- Evgeni Malkin (1G)