Division-leading Blue Jackets visit Penguins
That could be evident in the style of play when the teams meet for the first time this season Saturday at PPG Paints Arena, but it’s the Blue Jackets who come in on a high.
Columbus (13-7-3) beat Toronto 4-2 Friday to avenge a 4-2 loss Monday in the first game of a home-and-home set against the Maple Leafs and keep a hold on the top spot in the Metropolitan. The Blue Jackets were on a 5-0-2 run before the two games against the Maple Leafs.
Pittsburgh (8-9-4) fell at Boston 2-1 in overtime Friday to remain last in the division.
Josh Anderson’s two first-period goals were illustrative of the way the season is going for the Blue Jackets. “Just going to the net hard,” Anderson said.
Columbus had to withstand a strong comeback by Toronto, which tied it 2-2 before Cam Atkinson scored shorthanded to restore the Blue Jackets’ lead and extend his goal streak to six games.
“That was the definition of finding a way to win,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said.
Columbus will be playing in its third set of back-to-back games — the Blue Jackets were 2-1-1 over the first two sets — and will make it three in four nights Monday against Detroit.
“We’ve got three tough games here — I guess two more,” Columbus defenseman Scott Harrington said. “We’re playing games with a lot of skill and a lot of speed. … Great job by us to lock it down in the third (Friday) and play well defensively and have that confidence moving forward (that) if we put ourselves in a similar situation in the next two games, we can have the confidence that we can seal the deal and get it done.”
That’s been something the Penguins haven’t been able to do much. They are 2-7-3 in their past 12 games, although that includes 1-0-2 in their past three.
“The last three games we have points,” said center Evgeni Malkin, who scored on a power play for Pittsburgh’s only goal — and a lead — against Boston and has a six-game point streak.
“We had a chance to win (Friday). It’s a tough loss, but we have a great team. We believe in each other. … If we play the same and we get a little bit lucky, we’ll win games for sure.”
Pittsburgh is expected to start Casey DeSmith in goal after Tristan Jarry made his first NHL start this season, and 28th of his career, against the Bruins. The Penguins placed goaltender Matt Murray on injured reserve Thursday with an upper-body injury that coach Mike Sullivan said will keep Murray out “longer term.”
Pittsburgh also lost top-line winger Patric Hornqvist for the third period against the Bruins after he took a hard hit against the boards from Boston’s Kevan Miller in the second period. Sullivan did not have an update on Hornqvist’s status after the game.
Sullivan, in contrast to Malkin, doesn’t seem satisfied with picking up individual points here and there.
“We’re looking for wins,” Sullivan said tersely, then repeated that sentence.
“We have higher expectations. We’re trying to win every game that we’re in.”