The Columbus Blue Jackets made a bold statement Thursday night, even if it’s just game 31 for them.
Scott Hartnell scored a hat trick. Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Saad and Brandon Dubinsky each recorded two points, and the Blue Jackets trampled the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-1 in front of 19,113, the ninth-largest crowd to see a game at Nationwide Arena.
The win propels the Blue Jackets to not only first place in the Metropolitan division but also in the NHL thanks to playing fewer games than the Chicago Blackhawks. This by far is the deepest in the season the Blue Jackets have ever been in first place. The only other time was in 2009-10 when they were 9-5-2 after 16 games per the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Blue Jackets are a perfect 10-0-0 in December, have won 11 straight games and have points in 13 straight games, tying a franchise record.
The Penguins didn’t waste any time in gaining the upper hand. Who else, but Sidney Crosby opens the scoring on a wonderful individual play in front of Sergei Bobrovsky. Crosby chipped the puck into the air over to the other side of the net. While in midair, Crosby bats it into an open side of the net. It was less than three minutes into the game, but Pittsburgh seized momentum. Although 19,000 people were there, you could hear a pin drop.
Shots were 7-1 Penguins with half the period gone. Then the Penguins gave the Blue Jackets a golden opportunity. Ian Cole got his stick up on Josh Anderson. The referees huddled and assessed a four-minute double minor on Cole. In the second half of the four minutes, Nick Foligno waited and setup Cam Atkinson with a perfect pass. Atkinson from his office buried the shot and tied the game at one.
The game settled in after that. Shots favored Pittsburgh 10-6 after one.
Remember the Vancouver game? Remember when Jack Johnson “high-sticked” the Canuck player? Turns out that it was friendly fire. That was a double-minor on Sunday. We had a repeat performance early in the second period.
Scott Hartnell battled Crosby. Brian Dumoulin was in the area. Dumoulin’s stick clips Crosby in the face. The referees call a penalty on Hartnell, for ELBOWING. For the second time in three games, the Blue Jackets had to kill a phantom penalty. To their credit, they killed it. Then they took over the period.
The Blue Jackets scored twice in the period. The first one the referees initially missed. William Karlsson shot the puck over Matt Murray and off the top bar and in. Then Scott Hartnell showed off his “speed”, and blazed down the left-wing beating Derrick Pouliot down the ice and then went backhand on a frozen Murray. The score was 3-1 after two. The Blue Jackets led in shots 18-16.
The third period all season has belonged to the Blue Jackets. That trend continued in a big way on Thursday night. If you like goals, you’ll like what the Blue Jackets did during these 20 minutes.
Scott Hartnell scored his second of the game at 2:44, followed by Brandon Saad at 3:01, then Boone Jenner at 3:35. That’s three goals in 51 seconds, breaking the franchise record for fastest three goals. The old record was 1:15. All of a sudden, the score was 6-1 Blue Jackets.
That was it for Murray. For the second time this season, he was pulled from a game. Marc-Andre Fleury entered the game in mop up duty. He too was greeted with a goal less than three minutes after he entered.
The hero of the night, Hartnell, completed his 9th career hat trick to make the score 7-1. The Blue Jackets dominated this game from the end of the first period on. That double minor on Cole turned momentum for good in this game. Columbus outshot Pittsburgh 28-26 in the game, while winning 60% of their faceoffs. This was a statement game for Columbus telling everyone that they’re for real. They are now a combined 4-0 against the second, third, fourth and fifth place teams in the league (Chicago, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers, Montreal.) They’ve outscored those teams 24-5. Sergei Bobrovsky finished with 25 saves.
PIT – Sidney Crosby (23) assisted by Ian Cole and Conor Sheary
CBJ – Cam Atkinson (15) assisted by Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg
CBJ – William Karlsson (5) assisted by Sam Gagner and Josh Anderson
CBJ – Scott Hartnell (6) unassisted
CBJ – Scott Hartnell (7) assisted by Sam Gagner and Jack Johnson
CBJ – Brandon Saad (12) assisted by Alexander Wennberg
CBJ – Boone Jenner (6) – assisted by Brandon Dubinsky and Seth Jones
CBJ – Scott Hartnell (8) assisted by Brandon Dubinsky and Brandon Saad
THW Three Stars
First: Scott Hartnell (9th career hat trick)
Second: Sam Gagner (2 primary assists)
Third: Brandon Dubinsky (2 primary assists)
Montreal Canadiens at Columbus Blue Jackets
Nationwide Arena, 7:00 PM EST on Friday, Dec. 23
TV Broadcast Channels: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go and Sportsnet East
2016-17 Meeting: Blue Jackets defeated Montreal 10-0 on November 4th