Blue Jackets Doomed By Costly Mistakes Against the Penguins

The Columbus Blue Jackets entered Friday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins looking to build off of their last performance, a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. After 40 minutes, the Blue Jackets were in prime position to build as they were in a 2-2 game that was even throughout.

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But then, the third period happened. As Sean Kuraly said postgame, things seemed to happen and they were all “daggers” to the Blue Jackets. When the final buzzer sounded, the Penguins skated off with a 5-2 win which was highlighted by Sidney Crosby’s hat trick. He now has 496 career goals.

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby is now just four goals shy of 500 in his career. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The final score is really not indicative of how most of this game went. The Blue Jackets played a lot of good minutes. But then in crunch time, they made crippling mistakes. Against a team like the Penguins, there is no room for these kind of errors.

Korpisalo’s Night & Unfortunate Goal

With the score 2-2, both teams were waiting for the other to make a costly mistake. Mike Matheson sent a shot at goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. It appeared as though he stopped the shot. But suddenly, the puck trickled through and rolled on edge just over the goal line.

From Korpisalo’s perspective, it’s a real shame. He thought he squeezed his pads enough to stop the shot. Instead, it turned into the game-winning goal. He played an otherwise great game that kept the Blue Jackets in it all night. Here is head coach Brad Larsen postgame on Korpisalo’s night.

“I thought he was excellent. We know one goal he wished he had back was the third obviously,” Larsen said. “I thought he had it. He just didn’t squeeze it and it got over the line. It’s unfortunate but he was playing one heck of a game.

“He gets scored on early. That’s a tough start for him. Our top line was running all over the place. It was a horrible start for them and it stung us right away. It was a tough way to start but he settled in and made some key saves.”

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Despite the unfortunate goal, the Blue Jackets were still in the game and thought they had the tying goal.

Offside, Yet Again

Max Domi beat Tristan Jarry just after the Blue Jackets power play expired. It for a moment made the score 3-3. The Penguins challenged the goal for offside. As has been tradition this season, the goal was overturned. Emil Bemstrom was offside on the far side away from the puck.

Larsen was not pleased.

“We go offside. Incredible to me that we go offside. That hurts,” Larsen said.

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It really is incredible that the Blue Jackets have had several instances of goals taken away due to being offside. In such a critical moment as that one, you cannot let that happen, especially since Bemstrom was away from the play to where it didn’t impact how the goal was scored.

The score went back to 3-2 with the Blue Jackets again looking for a tying goal. But then, the final daggers to the Blue Jackets’ hopes came in and ultimately put the game out of reach.

Penalty Trouble

First it was Kuraly running into Jarry. Then as the Blue Jackets were trying to clear the zone, Alex Texier bats a puck out of the air and over the glass. It was clearly an accident but according to the rulebook, it’s delay of game. Crosby scored on the resulting five-on-three. But that’s not all.

Captain Boone Jenner was taken down by Brian Dumoulin. Jenner goes after Dumoulin and cross checks him. That gets called. Any hopes of a comeback faded to black in that moment.

Related: Blue Jackets Have Been Losing Lately & That’s Ok

These games with the Penguins and Blue Jackets tend to get heated and emotional. However emotions have to be controlled. Larsen acknowledged as much postgame.

“Emotion’s a great thing, but you gotta be really careful in those moments. We were one shot away. We were in it and then we just imploded.”

Taking the Positives & Learning

The Blue Jackets hung with the Penguins for 40 minutes. In the moment the result is certainly disappointing. However the Blue Jackets have things they can take from this game that should help them moving forward.

They’ve played five pretty good periods in the last 48 hours. That should give them some confidence that they are taking some steps in the right direction. They just have to avoid the crippling, game-deciding mistakes that plagued them against the Penguins.

Friday served as yet another hard lesson for a young team trying to find their way. But they get a chance to make amends on Sunday against the Ottawa Senators.

Side Dishes

  • Gus Nyquist scored his NHL-leading fourth shorthanded goal of the season. He whiffed on his initial shot but then sent the puck towards Casey DeSmith from the goal line. It somehow went in. He didn’t even know it. He only found out when the crowd started cheering. He’s really finding his form after returning from shoulder surgery.
  • Speaking of DeSmith, he was pulled after just one period with the score 2-2. Both goals he gave up were not good. He has badly struggled and originally wasn’t going to play Friday. However Jarry played Thursday and Louis Domingue was placed on injured reserve. You should expect the Penguins to actively seek a backup goalie as soon as possible. The question with Jarry will be how tired he is later in the season given his workload.
  • Kuraly earned a promotion and played in the top-six Friday. He played against Crosby. Although Crosby won the night, Kuraly’s play has been noticed. Here’s Nyquist on Kuraly: “I think Kurls has been a great addition right from the start both on and off the ice. He’s one of those guys that you know what you’re going to get every single night, the consistency he brings, both ends of the puck. He does a lot of good things on our (penalty) kill and just overall. I think he’s been real important for us this year and we’re going to need him moving forward here.”
  • Can we talk about delay of game for a moment? It is clearly in the rulebook and there for a reason. But goodness. To penalize a team for accidently batting a puck out of play while it’s in mid-air? Come on. That’s not why the rule was created. It was created so that teams couldn’t intentionally clear the puck out of play. Kuraly admitted postgame that this is something that should be looked at in the future. The call ultimately led to a two-man advantage. This rule needs tweaked somehow. It shouldn’t have this kind of an impact on a game.
  • Doesn’t it feel like the East playoff teams are already set? With Friday’s setback, the Blue Jackets trail the second wildcard spot by 11 points. Detroit is six points back but have played four more games than the Bruins who hold the second wildcard. I’ll be curious to see if the Blue Jackets still feel they have a chance. If not, it’s time to play the kids in key situations. You have nothing to lose given expectations for this season. You have to find out what you got in order to help make key personnel decisions.

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