The Pittsburgh Penguins limped into Monday’s game with injured defensemen (add Brooks Orpik to the growing list) and key sniper James Neal suspended, but their biggest names still made it happen in a 2-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Evgeni Malkin scored and was a difference-maker in his return to action while Sidney Crosby notched an odd game-winner to eke out the Pens’ sixth straight home win:
Marc-Andre Fleury almost earned a shutout (and a rare goal for a goalie), settling for his 17th win of the 2013-14 season.
Curtis McElhinney obviously didn’t get the win, as the Blue Jackets allowed two goals after piling up two consecutive shutouts. Still, the journeyman goalie stopped 28 out of 30 shots, so there’s still reason to believe that he could help them survive Sergei Bobrovsky’s lengthy absence.
With this win, the Penguins have 43 standings points on the season, giving them the top spot in the East. Their buddies the Boston Bruins aren’t far behind, however, as they have 42 points and two games in hand (30 games played versus Pittsburgh’s 32).
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets find themselves outside of the playoff picture right now with a 12-15-3 record for 27 points.
Apparently Blue Jackets management is a little shaken by the second 0-3-0 start in franchise history, however.
Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen shared his shock and dismay with the Columbus Post-Dispatch on Tuesday.
“I’m surprised how, in just five days, we’ve gone from a very confident group to something that’s the opposite of that,” Kekalainen told The Dispatch on Tuesday. “Our confidence, our game … it’s off the rails right now.
Maybe losing to the Buffalo Sabres stings a little bit extra?
Kekalainen said “there’s no excuse for how we played in Buffalo,” pointing out that every team in the NHL is a “good team.”
Indeed, just about every squad boasts some dangerous weapons if they catch an opponent sleeping.
The Post-Dispatch goes deeper on Columbus’ recent history of stumbling out of the gate, but consider the foreboding stretch coming up.
Next four games: Three out of four at home Eight games following that: Seven out of eight on the road.
As you can see, winter is coming for Columbus, so they best get things together. All things considered, this is the right time for a wake-up call.
For bonus chuckles, here’s a photo of Kekalainen on a railing.
He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.
Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).
That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out
This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:
With Ovechkin out, Caps lines look like this: