The Columbus Blue Jackets were well aware of how good the Pittsburgh Penguins are on the power play, and they got a reminder of that in the second period of their 3-1 loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday night.
A power-play tally from forward Phil Kessel put the Penguins (1-0) ahead by two goals, and the Blue Jackets (0-1) never recovered.
“You’ve got to stay out of the box against these guys, and I think that’s going to be a key factor,” left winger Matt Calvert said. “We’ll fix some holes in our PK and move on.”
Columbus Blue Jackets face Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of East Quarters
Two-and-a-half minutes after Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead in the game, Kessel netted a power-play goal, which gave the Penguins a 2-0 advantage over the Blue Jackets.
With Calvert in the penalty box for tripping, the Penguins went to work in the offensive zone and controlled the puck inside the blue line. Center Evgeni Malkin took a pass from defenseman Justin Schultz and reversed the puck over to Kessel on the left side of the ice.
From the faceoff dot, Kessel roofed a wrist shot above Sergei Bobrovsky’s left shoulder and into the net for the second goal of the game.
“We need to try to stay out of the box,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “They’ve got some good players. I thought where they hurt us, to get set up in those situations, was through the seams, and I think that we’ve got to figure that out.
“They’re always looking through the seams. It’s a power play that has a lot of moving pieces. It’s not really where they stay in one set position, and they’re pretty good players. We’ve got to limit the penalties. I think seam plays were exposed, and that gave them some freedom to make those types of plays.”
The Blue Jackets outshot the Penguins, 16-3, in the first 20 minutes of play, but Pittsburgh responded well in the second period and put three pucks into the back of the net behind Bobrovsky, a likely candidate for the Vezina Trophy.
“I think a big thing was dealing with momentum,” Calvert said. “They got that one, and then, the power-play goal. We just deflated a little bit. We’ve got to learn how to put it behind us and move onto the next shift.”
The Blue Jackets netted their only goal of the game on a Pittsburgh turnover in its own zone.
With Marc-Andre Fleury trying to control the puck behind the goal, Calvert applied pressure and helped force the turnover. Forward Josh Anderson tipped the puck back to Calvert, and he put it beyond Fleury’s reach on the glove side and into the upper corner of the net.
Moving forward, Calvert and the Blue Jackets aim to take whatever momentum from that late push and put it to good use in tonight’s Game 2 matchup in Pittsburgh.
“We had 50 wins this year,” Calvert said. “We know how to win hockey games, so we’ll go back to the drawing board, get set for Game 2 and come out with the same energy we did in the first.”