The high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins will hit the road Saturday for a Metropolitan Division matchup with the host Columbus Blue Jackets, who have begun to find a nail-biting way to win games.
Pittsburgh is averaging five goals through its first four games, with scoring coming not only from its big names but also from depth players.
“Our guys are finishing,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “They’re creating opportunities.”
As an example, in the Penguins’ 6-1 win Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings, 13 players registered at least one point. Offseason acquisitions Jeff Petry, Jan Rutta and Ryan Poehling each picked up their first goals with the team.
“I guess we all just decided to burst the bubble at the same time,” Poehling said.
Of the 18 Pittsburgh skaters who have played, 16 have at least one point.
That has helped the Penguins collect seven of a possible eight points, getting Sullivan to his 300th win with the club on Thursday to go with his two Stanley Cups. He already had the most wins in franchise history.
“It’s humbling. It means a lot,” Sullivan said. “I’m grateful to the players. They’re the guys who go out there and earn wins for us.”
The Penguins are 3-0 at home and have scored six goals in each of those games.
But they blew a two-goal lead and fell in overtime 3-2 at Montreal in their only road game so far, and they won’t be back at PPG Paints Arena until November. The game at Columbus kicks off a five-game road trip that also takes them through Western Canada and Seattle.
Penguins top line winger Jake Guentzel is traveling to Columbus, but his status is unknown after he left Thursday’s game when he was hit with a deflected shot near his right ear.
The Blue Jackets stumbled to three straight losses to open the season but have bounced back to win their past two, including a 5-3 victory Thursday against the Nashville Predators.
In both of those wins, Columbus fell behind before late comebacks, one in overtime and Thursday in the third period.
Defenseman Nick Blankenburg notched the winning goal Thursday with 1:23 left in regulation, a game after he landed a couple big hits to spark some energy that helped Columbus to a comeback win against Vancouver.
And that was after being a healthy scratch the first three games.
“Looks like the kid wants to stay in the lineup, right?” coach Brad Larsen said.
Not that the Blue Jackets intend to continue spotting opponents a lead before mounting a comeback.
“It’s not a good recipe when you start going down 2-0 and think you’re going to come back,” Larsen said. “It’s good to know you have the ability to do so, but we have to find ways to start better and make sure we’re not in that hole.”
The Blue Jackets’ major offseason acquisition, winger Johnny Gaudreau, leads the team with four goals and six points.
Columbus got encouraging news when prolific winger Patrik Laine began skating in full gear this week, but he seems to still be at least a week away from returning from an elbow sprain in the season opener.
–Field Level Media